Broken City

Broken City (DVD Cover)

Cast: Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg), Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe), Cathleen Hostetler (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper), Paul Andrews (Kyle Chandler), Natalie Barrow (Natalie Martinez), Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright)

Director: Allen Hughes

Theatrical release: 01/18/2013
DVD Date: 04/30/2013

Rating: R
Running Time: 109 minutes

Note(s): Original screenplay by Brian Tucker.

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Broken City

Review: Set (for the most part) in the final days of a campaign for the election of a New York City mayor, this pseudo-political thriller disappoints in part because of a weak script, which takes far too many shortcuts. While ex-cop, now PI Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) constantly professes to know nothing about what is going on around him, it's all too obvious to the viewer. But what I found most baffling is why someone associated with the casting of this film thought Russell Crowe would make for a good NYC major. He is, to put it bluntly, just awful here. As he often does in his films, he mumbles his lines, but the mumbling coupled with a half-hearted attempt to adopt some sort of American accent makes him nearly incomprehensible. Fortunately, since the script is so obvious it doesn't really matter much that you can't understand what he's saying.

Anyway, Billy Taggart is hired by the mayor to follow his wife, who he suspects is having an affair. Seven years earlier, then undercover cop Taggart was involved in the shooting death of a young black man, an incident viewed by the black community as excessive force by a white cop against a black youth, but for which he was never brought to trial. The mayor, together with the Police Commissioner, forced Taggart to resign from what we're supposed to assume was a promising career. Now, he's barely getting by as a private investigator. So the mayor's job comes at an opportune time. (There's a minor, nearly inconsequential subplot involving Taggart and his girlfriend, which almost looks like it was edited in in post-production.) But it isn't long before Taggart realizes that the mayor has a different ulterior motive behind hiring Taggart. How and why Taggart decides to turn on the mayor isn't fully explained. It's not as if Taggart has any principles himself, as he is as corrupt as nearly every other character in this film.

Russell Crowe aside, the performances by the principal actors are credible if not altogether memorable. The production values are more along the lines of TV movie-of-the-week than major theatrical release, but they're appropriate for the story being told. And the direction is fairly brisk, with not a lot of time spent on scenes tangential to the primary storyline.

I suppose, when I think back on it, the film was OK, worth a rental but I wouldn't buy it or watch it again unless I was a die-hard Russell Crowe or Mark Wahlberg fan. Which I'm not. I will say, however, that I was caught a off-guard by the final scene, when a twist I hadn't anticipated and wasn't expecting played out. It's actually quite sweet, and left me smiling at the end of an otherwise forgettable thriller.


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