It should be the case with all movies, but Broken City is one in particular that demands your utmost attention. Don't try getting up during the movie for a bathroom break or a refill if you plan on understanding just what the heck is happening.
Mark Wahlberg plays Billy Taggert, an NYPD detective who is forced out of the department after a questionable decision is made, leading to a deadly incident. Is he an innocent man, or is there some dirt on his record? By stepping down, he helps the sitting Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) and the police Commisioner Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) avoid a PR nightmare and a political s%!#-storm of controversy. In other words, the Mayor is in his debt.
Flash-forward seven years, and we find that Taggert is now an independent private investigator. Having built up a relationship with the still Mayor Hostetler, he is called in to investigate the mayor's wife, Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whom the mayor suspects is cheating on him. Taggert and his business assistant Katy (Alona Tal) look into the situation and find that Cathleen is suspiciously hanging out with the campaign manager (Kyle Chandler) of the mayor's opponent (Barry Pepper) in the upcoming election. When Taggert reports his findings to the mayor, things turn deadly, and Taggert finds himself sinking deeper into a web of corruption.
All of this unfolds with an over-serious tone by filmmaker Allen Hughes, one-half of the once-hot directing duo "The Hughes Brothers," who burst onto the scene with Menace II Society way back in the day. It's clear that with Broken City, Hughes is attempting to give us a rich political thriller where nothing is as it seems. A movie dealing with corruption at city hall isn't necessarily a fresh concept, but Broken City gives us a crop of interesting characters populating this gritty noir world.
But it mostly over-shoots its ambitions. One too many twists and turns leads to a convoluted plot that has you putting pen to paper once returning home, plotting out the many developments and how they relate to one another. Everything ended up making sense, I think, but here is the sort of film avoided if certain characters don't withhold certain information at certain times. Too vague? See the film and give me your take.
Mark Wahlberg plays a tough New Yorker like few others, which is not a stretch for the city native. Russell Crowe gives a fine performance, but he wasn't quite believable enough for me as the weasel-y politician. The ensemble of supporting characters were strong enough to make Broken City interesting, if not provocative.
Here is a world where there are no real good guys. Broken City could have benefited from some lighter moments, but it keeps its intense tone going from frame one. It didn't end up resonating with me as much as it seems it should have, given the talented cast, but Broken City is far from a broken film. Ugly and flawed, much like the system it is portraying, but functional.
Genre: Drama, Crime, Thriller
Run Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, Kyle Chandler
Screenplay by Brian Tucker
Directed by Allen Hughes (As part of "The Hughes Brothers:" Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, From Hell)
Opens locally on Friday, Jan. 18, 2013 (check for show times).
Be sure to watch Tom Santilli on TV! Check your local listings for “Movie Show Plus” for Tom’s weekly movie review segment, airing at 3 p.m. EST on MYTV20 in Detroit.