The major problem with movies now is that it's hard not to compare them to other popular titles. Even if the comparison is not accurate, it's the nature of critics and audiences to judge the movie they just watched by another they saw either recently or years ago, in order to convey what the movie is like, not thinking this will tarnish the reputation of the movie they just saw.
This is the case with Broken City. Like last week's Gangster Squad, it's very easy to draw comparisons to films like L.A. Confidential, but it's not quite fair to do so. Broken City may not be the next classic film in our generation, but it's more than worth the price of admission.
After being hung out to dry for a crime he was never tried for, Billy Taggart is forced to leave the police force. Seven years later, Taggart is now a private investigator, struggling to make ends meet and trying his hardest not to fall off the wagon. When things are looking severely grim, he gets a call from incumbent Mayor Nick Hostetler (Russell Crowe) for a job: tail his wife Catherine (Catherine Zeta-Jones) to find out who she's been sleeping with before his political rival Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper) uses it against the mayor to win the election. What seemed like an easy paycheck drives Taggart deeper and deeper into an investigation that leads to more questions than answers.
Director Allen Hughes (From Hell) and first-time screenwriter Brian Tucker bring the lost art of the neo-noir back to the big screen, and knock it out of the park. Replacing graphic violence with taut suspense and intense dialogue, Tucker's script is certainly a stellar debut, while Hughes's eye for detail and knack for taking advantage of the absence of light is impressive in the context of the film. Where the film really flies, though, is Russell Crowe's performance. Mark Wahlberg is solid here, but it's Crowe's dark, dead pan delivery that makes him a force to be reckoned with as he easily carries the bulk of the film.
Seeing that Broken City is a neo-noir, it's easy to compare it to L.A. Confidential, but it's not a fair comparison at all. With the political angle, a closer comparison would be maybe the brilliant The Ides of March, but, even then, it's still not entirely accurate because it doesn't have the emotional investment that film does. Broken City is a straight-forward thriller, and, contrary to popular belief, there's nothing wrong with that. It may not have all the stellar performances and Oscar-worthy writing, but when did it become a crime to merely be entertained at the movies? Broken City is highly entertaining, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats from start to finish.
FINAL VERDICT: Broken City won't be winning any awards any time soon, but has enough suspense and action to keep you entertained. Whether it be the intense mystery or the solid performances from Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe, Broken City may not be perfect, but it's still a great time at the movies.