Big name stars bring hopes and expectations but do not guarantee a good movie. Try as they may, Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones also can’t fix what’s broken in “Broken City.” It all starts with Brian Tucker’s poor screenplay. His political crime-drama mystery is as rife with clichés as its New York City is with corruption. Director Allen Hughes’ snail’s pacing bogged down further by several lengthy scenes that serve no purpose leave us with an unsatisfying and uninteresting time waster.
All three stars flatly deliver their lines with poker faces and stock characters that fail to be likeable, unlikeable or even interesting. Wahlberg plays Billy Taggart, a cop acquitted of a murder charge but immediately forced to retire when previously undisclosed evidence surfaces. Crowe is the obviously corrupt Mayor Hostetler. Seven years later, Hostetler hires now private eye Taggart to catch his wife with her assumed lover. Zeta-Jones is wasted as Hostetler’s wife in a few brief and mostly pointless scenes.
Then there’s Taggart’s drinking problem which comes back after watching his girlfriend’s (Natalie Martinez) graphic sex scene in an independent film. Poorly executed scenes involving his drinking and her acting career seem forced in to pad out the movie’s running time. They also pull focus and screen time away from the mystery part of the story and bring things to a grinding halt.
The one bright spot is Alona Tal as Taggart’s assistant Katy. She injects some much needed energy into the movie with a take no prisoners approach to bill collection for her employer and an overall performance that is spunky, charming and funny. Though her moments are all too brief, she is the best written character in the movie and would have made a more interesting romantic possibility for Taggart.