Runtime: 1 HR, 47 MIN
Director: Allen Hughes
Writers: Brian Tucker
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, Alona Tal, Natalie Martinez, Kyle Chandler, James Ransome, and Griffin Dunne
2012 was the tale of two actors. Mark Wahlberg’s Contraband was a mild success and Ted was one of the year’s biggest hits. On the other hand Russell Crowe made a bizarre appearance in RZA’s The Man with the Iron Fists and later showed why his vocal talents led him to be in a rock band and not pursue a career in opera in Les Misérables. Now, these two occasional blockbuster actors are going head to head in Broken City.
Disgraced cop turned private investigator Billy Taggart is hired by New York City Mayor Nicholas Hostetler to investigate his wife whom he believes is having an affair. After completing his assignment a political rival of the Mayor is found dead and Taggart begins his own investigation to find out if his involvement played a part in the murder and begins to unravel a much larger conspiracy.
On paper Broken City must have looked like a home run; two successful leading men, a respected director, and New York City as the film’s backdrop. Sadly, what looks great on paper doesn’t always translate to a successful film something that Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, and director Allen Hughes have all become more than aware of over the years. Simply put Broken City is boring, really boring. Both Crowe and Wahlberg have found a lot of success in films with an action element to them. Broken City is advertised as such a film, but instead of a politically charged action film we’re treated to a dreadfully dull drama.
It’s not impossible to make an arresting political film, but the key is to have interesting characters with compelling dialogue. The dialogue between Wahlberg and Crowe aren’t worth writing home about and are hardly memorable. Continuing her recent trend of playing a boring woman in a smart suit Catherine Zeta-Jones does nothing to improve the film with her stagnant scenes with Crowe and Wahlberg. The only member of the cast capable of breaking up the monotony was the always impressive Jeffrey Wright. He elevates every scene he’s apart of whether it be with Wahlberg, Crowe, or both. Other supporting roles filled by Barry Pepper and Kyle Chandler quickly hit dead ends. Broken City has a great cast with more than enough star power that is complimented by a strong lineup of character actors that is inexcusibly squandered.
In addition to the dreadfully dull main story line there are numerous side stories that are touched upon yet lead nowhere. The many character flaws of Wahlberg’s character are shown, then nailed home without subtlety, and then disregarded entirely. The writer’s attempt to make him a flawed anti-hero are not successful as he more often comes across as a jealous and mean spirited user that is more concerned with getting even than doing the right thing. Many of his interactions with other characters often take an unexpected turn with the reasoning behind the turnaround being left unexplained. Think of Broken City as a connect the dots puzzle; you know what general shape the film is trying to make but too many of the dots were skipped along the way.
There’s not a lot to say about Broken City aside from that it’s forgettable. It features an impressive but wasted cast that are left to flounder in a story that ultimately goes nowhere. People looking for action are going to be disappointed, as are those that are looking for a taut drama. It’s a shame when so much talent is put to so little use.