What It's About
A tepid political potboiler that strains credibility with ridiculous subplots, "Broken City" is basically a glorified "Law and Order" episode.
For starters, Mark Wahlberg is Billy Taggart, a disgraced NYC cop (killed a young girl's murderer and rapist, who had been freed on a technicality) who now works as a private detective. He's summoned by the mayor (Russell Crowe) to trail his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who he suspects is having an affair.
But, of course, things are not what they appear, especially during a heated mayoral election. Murder, corruption, homophobia, betrayal, cover-ups, ugly break-up, falling off the wagon, and real estate schemes are part of this congested political-crime drama.
An above-average cast is saddled with a sub-par script by first-timer Brian Tucker. Neverthless, Wahlberg is in his wheelhouse as a street-smart blue-collar type of guy who acts first, thinks later. He's such a temperamental head,case that he misses clues all around him. But at least he has a strong sense of duty and loyalty.
Crowe is an odd choice for the political boss who seems like a throwback from Chicago Mayor Richard Daley days. He's knocking back Scotch while he's campaigning as a mayor who gets things done -- and strong-arms those in his way. The tanned, chunky Crowe sporting an awful haircut isn't convincing in any way as the contemporary leader of a cosmopolitan city.
The beautiful Zeta-Jones is doing her best Jackie Kennedy imitation, wearing glamorous outfits and slinking around on the sidelines. While she gets away with some of the script's best zingers, she is mainly window-dressing.
The big puzzler is that an outstanding group of character actors -- Kyle Chandler, Barry Pepper, Jeffrey Wright and Griffin Dunne -- are forced into half-baked plot twists that waste their talent.
Not bad enough to be campy and not good enough to be a stylish neo-noir with some oomph, "Broken City" starts out OK, but as more story threads unravel, it's apparent the script is one giant mess. As the unrealistic elements pop up, the movie veers off the rails so far that it can't be salvaged.
What Doesn't Work
The setting is modern-day, but the lackluster land-deal plot doesn't bring any fresh element into the 21st Century. Derivative of old B-movies of the '50s, there isn't enough panache to draw you in to a mishandled clunky story. It's director Allen Hughes as his first solo project, so you expect more. Allen and his brother Albert brought us "Menace II Society," "From Hell" and "The Book of Eli." He doesn't establish a consistent tone, and it's ultimately a forgettable winter throwaway.
Director: Allen Hughes
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Kyle Chandler, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper
Rated: R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence