“Broken City” has a powerhouse cast. Russell Crowe (A Beautiful Mind), Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Mask of Zorro) have all been either won an Oscar or nominated for one. Director Allen Hughes’ noirish political crime thriller carries a lot of punch when you judge it from a first impression. Oh, one would do well to ignore the film’s trailer since it gives the impression that “Broken City” may be a raw, gritty action thriller, and it just isn’t so.
Billy Taggert (Mark Wahlberg) is a cop who had been arraigned for charges because of a controversial shooting. Taggert is set free due to the intervention of Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) and then police chief Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) but Taggert is relieved of police duty and many years after the trial, he went on to establish himself as a private investigator. One day during election season, Taggert gets a phone call from Mayor Hostetler and he has been called in to shadow the mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who he believes is having an affair. Billy is good at what he does and he manages to get sufficient information to present to the mayor. But things are not as they seem, as something much more complex seems to lie in the election itself and someone turns out dead.
“Broken City” is your standard film about political motivations, corruption that is set inside a battle between good and evil. Good men are sometimes seen as bad, and bad men are oftentimes seen as good. The screenplay by Brian Tucker has several themes of honor, what is right and sacrifice. The film has a lot of twists and turns, as things become developed along with its characters. The script does not try to hide anything, we all see who Taggert is, and Hostetler is seen as shady as the next politician; but what kept the plot moving is the anticipation of its possibilities.
I would have to say that the plot may be a little predictable, I suppose something could be said about the flow of the script. The pacing of the film moves rather slowly, it does develop its characters well, despite several areas that needed more smoothing over. You may say that Taggert is the man who sought to do the right thing, but circumstances forced him to go another route in the past and he wanted redemption. His character is one who can be seen as a tragic figure, as he did what he had to for the woman he loved (Natalie Martinez, Death Race) and this may indeed come back to bite him in the ass. Wahlberg played Taggert with some layers, but he does give his performance more macho conviction than what was needed in the script. Still, the actor delivered in his performance, I thought Wahlberg played the ‘ex-cop on the edge’ quite well.
Russell Crowe Mayor Hostetler who is one evil, conniving mofo. The actor was scary and intimidating in his role. His character displayed a lot of confidence and that made him very scary. Crowe plays the character opposite Barry Pepper who plays his political rival, and during the supposed debate in the film, it was scary just how charming an evil politician can be. Zeta-Jones’ character may have been a little underused, but hers was the role that set everything in motion and so the actress took on some of the film’s burden. Supporting cast were decent; Alona Tal was perfect as Taggert’s assistant, despite a little on the ‘young side’ while Natalie Martinez played Taggert’s girlfriend who may have been the catalyst of his fall from grace. She was a little underwritten, but I liked the way her being an actress played a part in the screenplay. It made Taggert’s conflicted persona much more credible.
Yes, the film had great performers working on its favor. But unfortunately, even when I was taken in the strength of the performers, the screenplay itself had major issues of its own. It had a lingering plot hole that I just couldn’t get pass. It also lingered a little too much and despite the film’s excellent “nourish” cinematography and Hughes’ smart camera work, the development of the plot seemed a little play by play, that despite it having the right drama and emotions, it just could not get to that vital cumulative impact.
“Broken City” is one of those films that had a great concept. It is filled with twists and surprises, but the way it all played out felt a little predictable. It is a film built on formula after all, but the screenplay just couldn’t get the proper build up to give its narrative a lot more power. It did succeed in defining Taggert as a tragic figure and certain things made the political arena in the film hit closer to home. “Broken City” was a decent film that could’ve been very good. The script, despite its good moments in dialogue just couldn’t keep everything together to hit a home run. The strong performances do aid in the film’s enjoyment and despite its issues, I was entertained for its entirety. Therefore, it gets a mildrecommendation from me. It is worth watching once. [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]