BY: JIMMY WILLDEN special to AMFM Magazine
Broken City is a movie filled with several great performances, witty dialogue that propels the movie along and keeps the audience on board through most of its blunders, and that has a nostalgic style that could fit nicely into anyone’s 90’s crime-thriller collection. But ultimately, the movie’s blunders do get the best of it. And here’s why:
Since its beginnings, the crime-thriller genre has relied on what has become a very familiar formula, without much alteration. Because of this, the movie landscape is littered with either highly predictable fare, or convoluted plot devices, rendering it nearly impossible to decipher. Broken City falls somewhere in between.
The film follows ex-cop-with-a-past Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) trying to make ends meet as a lowly Private Investigator. When he is contracted by the city’s mayor (Russell Crowe) to investigate his wife’s possible infidelity, Taggart finds himself drawn into a deep web of deceit and double-crossing. On the eve of the mayoral election, Billy must uncover and expose the dirty dark secrets of those in power before the city collapses beneath them.
Mark Wahlberg is commendable as Taggart, having an extremely tough job at deciphering all the half-sentences and half-truths said by those he meets along the way. His character being the most fleshed out, Wahlberg literally does carry the weight of Broken City on his shoulders. Only rarely does he buckle under that weight.
For the first half of the film, Russell Crowe is electric as Mayor Hostetler. But as the movie loses itself in its convoluted plot, so does Crowe’s performance.
Though Broken City is surely Wahlberg’s film, he’s backed by an outstandingly uneven supporting cast that includes: Catherine Zeta-Jones as the mayor’s wife (my least-favorite performance), Barry Pepper as mayoral candidate Jack Valliant (my favorite performance from the film), Jeffrey Wright as the Commissioner, and Kyle Chandler giving a respectable turn as Valliant’s Chief Campaign Manager.
Director Allen Hughes (THE BOOK OF ELI, DEAD PRESIDENTS) does his best at navigating Brian Tucker’s plot-heavy script, but in the end only slightly succeeds. The trusty crime-thriller format might be tried and true, but it’s also tired and used. There was nothing new here to explore. We’ve all been through this before.
While some performances are worth noting (Wahlberg, Pepper and Chandler), and there was an abundance of witty and snappy dialogue, the movie ultimately falters by way of its diluted formula-laden plot. 6 out of 10.