Movie Review: Broken City

by | Jan 18th, 2013 | 3:51PM | Filed under: Movies, Theatrical Reviews

Prepare to lose track of all the twists and turns in this star-studded crime drama from Allen Hughes.

Who’s in it? Mark Wahlberg (Billy Taggart), Russell Crowe (NYC Mayor Hostetler), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Cathleen Hostetler, the mayor’s wife), Jeffrey Wright (Carl Fairbanks police commissioner), Barry Pepper (Jack Valliant, the mayor’s political rival), Kyle Chandler (Paul Andrews, Valliant’s campaign manager)

What’s it about? New York mayor Nicholas Hostetler helps police officer Billy Taggart avoid jail time after he’s involved in a suspicious shooting. Taggart must still turn in his badge, however, and goes on to become a private investigator. Seven years later, Hostetler calls upon Taggart to investigate his wife and find out who she’s having an affair with. The mayor’s running a tight race against the squeaky-clean Jack Valliant (yes, that’s really his name) and is worried that a personal scandal could derail his shot at re-election.

What’s good? Let’s face it: this isn’t exactly the time of year that Oscar-caliber movies hit theaters … because that period just wrapped up at the end of December. Rather, these next few months are what we’ve fondly referred to as The Wasteland in prior years here on Redblog. All this is to say that my expectations adjust accordingly when I watch a January or February release. And I say that because while Broken City is by no means a great film, it did keep me entertained and its relatively short running time (around 1 hour 45 minutes) passed quickly. The entire cast (minus Zeta-Jones) is strong, but Russell Crowe in particular — while looking alarmingly Snooki-fied (read: orange) — really embraced the whole Dirty Mayor bit. TRUTH: I’d rather watch him ham it up in Broken City than cringe through one of his Les Miz songs any day. Another highlight was the sarcastic banter between Taggart and his assistant Katy (played by newcomer Alona Tal, who I kept thinking MUST be Anna Kendrick’s sister, but she’s not). In fact, when the film didn’t take itself so seriously is when I enjoyed it the most. From the scenes with Katy to a completely ridiculous (in a hilarious way) drinking binge sequence (I won’t say which character is involved) that comes out of nowhere, there were quite a few opportunities to laugh during what was otherwise a Hey, This is Serious! political thriller.

What could’ve been better? As I’ve already hinted at, Broken City‘s weakness is that it’s trying too hard. While this is director Allen Hughes’ first solo effort (he usually teams up with his twin brother Albert; they directed Menace II Society and The Book of Eli), it’s really screenwriter Brian Tucker’s script that’s the issue. It’s like he wanted to fit as many twists into the plot as possible … which I guess would’ve been cool if the subsequent reveals made your jaw drop. Instead, the “gotcha” moments fell flat and were anticlimactic to say the least. I also found Catherine Zeta-Jones’ character to be unintentionally funny. She went a little overboard in her attempt to be mysterious, and as a result her character never seemed like a real person to me. Notice that I haven’t said anything about the lead, Mark Wahlberg. That’s because to me he was just being the typical Mark Wahlberg character in this movie: tough guy, not the smartest, hot girlfriend, seems like he tries to do the right thing most of the time, you know the drill.

 The bottom line: Broken City might surprise you with perhaps one of its 100 twists, but the real reason to see it is to help erase Russell Crowe’s Javert from your memory. No, really though, I had fun watching Broken City overall. It doesn’t break any new ground for its genre and it doesn’t meet the high expectations it sets up for a WHOA—WHAT? finale, but its superb cast helps to overcome its other flaws.

Redbox movies featuring the cast of Broken City:

9 Responses to “Movie Review: Broken City”

  1. Mary Thacker
    Posted on January 18, 2013 at 5:28 pm

    Love Mark….he is soooo fine!!!!

  2. wanda
    Posted on January 18, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    i havent seen this one yet but i love all of the movies that mark wahlberg stars in i saw ted and contraband both great movies im sure this will be a great one too cant wait to rent it

  3. Saita Russo
    Posted on January 19, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    I have not seen the movie yet, but my favorite actors are in this movie
    Can’t wait to see it.

  4. Rahul
    Posted on January 19, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    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.

    • Currently 5/5 Stars
    Daniel perez
    Posted on January 21, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Great movie, must see for everyone.

  5. Mundane Dolphin
    Posted on January 21, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Excellent Summation, I think I will wait until it is sitting in a Redbox near me.

  6. sac longchamp
    Posted on January 22, 2013 at 8:21 am

    It takes three generations to make a gentleman.

    • Currently 1/5 Stars
    Jaster Mareal
    Posted on February 7, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I had a friend go and she said it was wretched and a complete waste of time. It got 25% on rottentomatoes so it must be pretty horrible. It also bombed through the floor at the box office so I don’t understand how someone can give it a 5 star review unless they were paid to do so.

    Posted on February 15, 2013 at 7:43 pm