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Movie Review: 'Broken City'

Broken City

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Directed by Allen Hughes
Rated R

There is a very telling line in Broken CityBilly Taggert (Mark Wahlberg) is talking with Police Commissioner Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) and Fairbanks is taking the ambiguous approach.  Taggert, frustrated by this approach, just throws up his hands and says. “Why can’t anyone speak in complete sentences”?  That pretty much sums up Broken City, an incomplete sentence of a movie.   It’s a movie that feels like it was born out of subplots from other better movies from an era long gone (the boom of ’70’s filmmaking).

 But I can see the allure of the story and why this movie grabbed the services of Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta Jones, Wahlberg and Jeffrey Wright.  But man, Broken City is a sheep in wolfs clothing.  A thriller that’s wants to be something Sidney Lumet would’ve made back in 1974, but ends up being below those John Grisham adaptations that were the all the rage in the 1990’s.

Billy Taggert is a cop, or used to be, until he did what he thought was the right thing and it only landed him in hot water.  So in lieu of a prison sentence, Taggert is stripped of his badge and is left working as a private investigator.  But Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) likes the guy, looks at him as a hero and calls upon Taggert to do a little investigation for him, one that involves spying on Hostetler’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) to see if she is having an affair.  The mayor is also days away from an impending election and he may have ulterior motives for a residential village that is about to undergo a facelift.  Oooh, the intrigue…

Taggert is obviously a flawed but well meaning sort.  This is shown through scenes with his actress girlfriend.  A subplot that get’s whacked about a 1/3rd of the way through the movie.  And as he tries to untangle the web of mystery that involves the Mayor and his wife, Wahlberg does what he does best in these types of situations...he stares off in that perplexing way.  It’s too bad he didn’t ask the audience what his next move should be, we could’ve told him, saving him and us the torture of a way subpar script.  

And that script for Broken City, it's bad.  It fails on so many levels to build any suspense, at times doesn’t make sense and worst of all, insults our intelligence a little bit.  There are subplots o’ plenty that are thrown into the mix, but the movie either disregards them or gives you a brief incomplete ambiguous sentence to explain it.  “Why can’t anyone speak in complete sentences”!?! 

Allen Hughes (he of the Hughes Brothers tandem, who gave us Menace II Society) works solo here and unfortunately, he just isn’t talented enough to rise above the many shortcomings of the script.  His work is sufficient, but it feels like he just wasn’t trying to not screw this up and plays it safe along the way. 

The actors are all game here, though a bit hammy, like they’re auditioning for a soap opera, especially Crowe, who tries really hard to be a New York guy with that New York swagger.   But at least they make this film at least a tiny bit watchable.  It’s too bad they all signed up for this, they deserve better.

Broken City may very well end up on my list of the worst films of 2013.  Thanks for wasting my time dudes.  I officially want my money back.

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