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Broken City (2013)

July 24, 2013

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written by: Brian Tucker

produced by: Randall Emmett, Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Arnon Milchan, Teddy Schwarzman, Allen Hughes & Remington Chase

directed by: Allen Hughes

rating: R (for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence)

runtime: 108 min.

U.S. release date: January 18, 2013

DVD/Blu-ray release date: April 30, 2013

When you find something you’re good at, stick with it, right? Actors can find their niche, that genre where audiences love seeing them in no matter how many times they come back to the well. For me, I’ve always been a Mark Wahlberg fan, an actor who finds himself playing a police officer in “The Other Guys”, “The Departed”, “Max Payne”, “We Own the Night”, and “The Corruptor”. We have a new entry to the listing, this year’s “Broken City”.

A veteran detective in New York City, Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) is exonerated for the murder of a young Latino man accused of rape and murder. The trial creates all sorts of waves though amongst the population, forcing NYC Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) to ask for his resignation. Taggart is stunned but goes along with it, starting up his own P.I. agency. Seven years go by, Billy struggling along to keep the business afloat as he dates his longtime girlfriend, Natalie (Natalie Martinez). Preparing for another election, Hostetler asks Taggart to take a job for him, investigating the mayor’s wife, Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who he suspects of having an affair. Promised an impressive payday, Billy takes the job but quickly realizes he hasn’t been told everything that’s going on. Big business, billions of dollars and even murder is just some of what the ex-cop has stumbled into.

 

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Politics are bad and/or corrupt, the police can be caught up in some shady, criminal stuff, and people in general tend to be pretty greedy and will do anything for a payday and to protect their own behinds. Nothing too crazy, out of left field in that statement, huh? Crime movies use all three premises as jumping off points to the point that they become ultra-familiar. Using all three, ‘Broken’ doesn’t have much new going for it. It adds little to the crime-political thriller that we haven’t seen before, but I found myself liking it just the same. Go figure. There is a familiar comfort zone with the story, recognizable characters and a story that does its best to keep us guessing (even if it’s never too hard to see where it’s going). It struggled in theaters thanks to some less than positive reviews, but it’s a movie that genre fans will hopefully get some enjoyment out of.

As a movie fan, it doesn’t take much to get me interested in a movie. Case in point? Wahlberg vs. Crowe, two of my favorite actors going toe to toe. Wahlberg is playing that familiar role, the everyman cop who’s had some trouble/demons in his past but has seemed to gotten a grasp on his life. Crowe is a hammy scene-stealer as the longtime NYC Mayo who knows the ins and outs of City Hall, NYC and all the city has to offer. It’s cool to see him as a bad guy — albeit a pretty smooth one. Their scenes together are solid, two toughs bouncing off each other well. Wahlberg’s part unfortunately goes a little too clichéd, his fiery relationship with longtime girlfriend screaming Cop Cliché, especially as it develops in the second half. As the evil, manipulative politician, Crowe’s Hostetler doesn’t offer much of anything new, but there’s talent here to appreciate.

 

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Director Allen Hughes has quite a cast beyond his two leads too, starting with Zeta-Jones in more of a window dressing part as Hostetler’s disgruntled wife, Cathleen. Also look for Jeffrey Wright as Taggart, the police commissioner who has a less than pleasant working relationship with the mayor, Barry Pepper as the opposing mayoral candidate trying to take down the longtime mayor with Kyle Chandler playing his campaign manager, Alona Tal as Kate, Billy’s lone employee and assistant and Michael Beach as Taggart’s former partner who has risen through the ranks in the NYPD.

For the most part, this crime-political thriller kept me entertained throughout. It develops through the first hour about the way you would expect. It’s near the halfway point that things get thrown for a loop. A twist is thrown our way that I didn’t see coming, and then another and another. ‘Broken’ barely manages to tread that fine line between trying too hard to surprise us and just delivering a good story. It gets a little too dramatic, a little too intense, but the NYC shooting locations provide a good backdrop and composers Atticus Ross, Leopold Ross and Claudia Sarne turn in a good, New Wave-ish musical score. Good, not great and a little clichéd crooked cops and politicians story.

 

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RATING: ***

 

 

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