After the triumph of post-apocalyptic action flick, The Book of Eli, director Allen Hughes has embarked on his first feature without twin-brother and co-director, Albert Hughes, by his side. Pooling resources from a script written by first-time screenwriter Brian Tucker and an A-list cast, Hughes moves away from his usual concoction of blood and violence and steps into the world of politics and corruption.
Trashy, predictable and often cheesy, Broken City
aims high and shoots low – and yet it still works. The reason being is said cast, who manage to breathe just enough life into the story to prevent it from turning into a total rumple.
Booted off the force years ago for gunning down a rape suspect – as seen in the opening scenes of the film – Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) operates as a low-rent private-eye in New York. Getting paid for snapping pictures of adulterous spouses is unfortunately not a very profitable business and as clients continue to avoid paying for the services rendered – despite Billy’s constant berating – the bills continue to pile up and Billy drowns deeper and deeper into debt.
So when Mayor Hostetler (Crowe) orders Billy to his office, asking him to investigate the dubious whereabouts of the city’s first lady (Zeta-Jones) – who he thinks is playing around – and offering him fifty thousand big ones to come up with the proof, Billy is more than happy to take on the challenge. But, of course, not everything is as it seems. Battling problems of his own with long-term girlfriend Natalie (Martinez), Billy, along with his trusted assistant Katy (Tal), gets himself involved in a complex web of political corruption. What started off as a simple task slowly begins to turn into a nightmare.
Broken City looks smart and dashing. Shot beautifully, the dazzling New York skyline is a real treat and the twinkling lights over Manhattan provide a great backdrop to the story. However, when it comes to the actual plot development, Broken City staggers.
The film sets itself up pretty well and the story gets off to a solid start, but after a series of midpoint twists and random evidence conveniently falling into laps, it becomes laughable and a little hard to keep up with. Over-thought, heavily restricted and somewhat outdated, Broken City fails to become the intense thriller you expect it to be.
Regardless, Broken City does have its merits; the script includes some welcoming touches of light humour and the cast keeps the film interesting.
Wahlberg’s performance is solid and his on-screen energy and the dynamics with his assistant make a fun watch. Crowe delivers a great performance making sure you’d think twice before crossing him, while Zeta-Jones is a perfect fit for the role of the femme-fatale. As the gritty Police Commissioner, Wright pulls his usual spin on the role and as the dubious Campaign Manager, Chandler’s performance is pretty sturdy.
To sum it up, Broken City is undemanding and very forgettable, but thanks to its stellar cast, the final product lands a few inches above mediocrity.