Saturday, January 19

REVIEW: Broken City

Directed by Allen Hughes
2013 Crime Drama
1 hour 49 minutes
From 20th Century Fox

Mark Wahlberg
Russell Crowe
Catherine Zeta-Jones
Jeffrey Wright
Alona Tal
Barry Pepper
Natalie Martinez
Kyle Chandler
Michael Beach
Griffin Dunne

It does seem inevitable that Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg would make a film together.  Aren't they almost the same person?  Both are drop-dead serious lacking in even trace amounts of humor.  They would be well-matched enough to play father and son or brothers.  Of course, they would have to be at odds with one another.  Well, here they are in Broken City, not related, but certainly at odds.  It appears Crowe's leading man days are over; this is his second film in a row where he has supported another male actor. 
There have been those who have taken some serious pot shots at this film and while I think that's a bit undeserved, it's not to say that there's particularly anything to jump up and down about either.  The truth is it's simply typical January fare.  If it were about great acting or writing, it would have been released a month earlier, at least.  If it were a great action flick, it would come out in May or during the summer.  It's where it belongs... in January.
Wahlberg is ousted in his cop job by Mayor Crowe and becomes a private detective with a sassy secretary-assistant (Tal).  Seven years later Crowe asks him to undertake tailing his wife whom he believes to be cheating.  Furthermore, it all needs to be wrapped up before an election, just a week or so away. 
It seemed odd to me that Crowe would ask Wahlberg back to do this for him and odder yet that Wahlberg would do it.  Well, there's more monkey business going on here than is at first apparent.  In fact duplicity is running rampant in New York City and there's not  a particularly decent character to be found.  There's just 50 shades of bad.
What the film is really about or really wants to be about is corruption in city government but I was never particularly convinced.  If the city is broken, the screenplay is more so.  It just didn't all come together in any persuasive way.  There were clunky scenes and explanations resulting in a little too much head-scratching for me.  What was needed here was the deft handling of a Sidney Lumet or a Martin Scorsese but not Allen Hughes in his solo directorial debut.
Wahlberg, for me, is always fun to watch.  He is always like a time-bomb ready to detonate, giving him that bad-boy, tough-guy veneer that I find exciting to watch.  I used to say the same thing about Crowe but I think his star is fading.  There was something about his look in this film I didn't care for and there was way too much goofy smiling for a character who's supposed to be a badass.
On the talk show circuit these days, Zeta-Jones has commented that she and Crowe have been good friends for years.  Maybe that's why she took the role.  I can't imagine any other reason for doing it since she's not given much to do.  Otherwise, I might have stuck my hand in my drink rather than my popcorn while looking at her up on that big screen.  What a beauty.
This one will die a quick death and be available on DVD in no time.  In the meantime, if you've got the hots to see something on corruption in New York City, there are better films you can view.



1 comment:

  1. Broken City begins brilliantly. The plot keeps you engaged with its twists and turns, making the story look like an action-packed suspense thriller. The build-up is superb. It convinces you to expect an equally gripping second half. Unfortunately, that is where the film runs out of steam and takes up a convenient, cliched twist which leads to an unappealing climax. The complex web of mysterious events gets unraveled way too easily. From a crime thriller to a political drama on corruption, the film also faces identity crisis of sorts. The transition makes you feel as if the director got confused and chose to take an easy way out towards the end. Also, connecting the characters' past to current events seems far-fetched. Some scenes hold no relevance to the story.