Film review: Broken City

  • 0 COMMENTS
Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg star in the dog eat dog corruption thriller Broken City. Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg star in the dog eat dog corruption thriller Broken City.

Civic disobedience: Dirty dealing makes everyone the bad guy in Broken City 

Absurd. That’s the best way to describe Broken City. That doesn’t mean it’s bad (or good), but nothing like this could ever happen in real life, if only because scandals and backstabbing and double-dealing are always much, much messier.

Don’t misunderstand; movies don’t need to mirror real life. Oftentimes they’re better when they don’t. But in every scandal in history, when the first guy goes down, he starts rolling on everyone else.

Anyway. We’re not dealing with reality. This is a Mark Walhberg movie, and he plays what has become the Mark Walhberg role: scumbag with a heart of gold. Russell Crowe plays what has become the Russell Crowe role: scumbag. Lots of other famous people pop up, and, rest assured, they’re slumming, though Jeffrey Wright brings his ever-present simmering intensity to the role of the police commissioner, Carl Fairbanks. He’s a welcome character amid all the reheated archetypes.

Here’s the deal. There are three key pieces of information that roll up in Broken City’s first three scenes: Billy Taggart (Wahlberg), a New York cop, shoots and kills a suspect he’s chasing; a judge decides the district attorney’s office doesn’t have sufficient evidence to bring charges against Taggart; Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Crowe) and the police commissioner congratulate Taggart on beating the rap, and he’s forced to resign.

There are no spoilers there. That’s literally the first eight minutes—maybe not even that—of the movie. Everything that follows is strictly by the numbers stuff, as the mayor hires Taggart, now a private investigator, to follow his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whom he says he suspects is having an affair.

Again, because it’s by the numbers doesn’t mean it’s bad. Director Allen Hughes, who’s never done quite as well as his debut feature, Menace II Society, can pace a scene, and he’s populated the movie with actors who can recite some of the silly dialogue with enough conviction that it’s believable in the moment.

Barry Pepper and Kyle Chandler, playing a city councilman vying for the mayor’s office, and his campaign manager, respectively, have some good scenes together as they go through debate prep. Chandler also has a few choice moments with Wahlberg on the Long Island Railroad. Zeta-Jones, who’s been phoning it in lately (see: Playing for Keeps), ramps up the icy power in her few scenes with Crowe and Wahlberg, and reminds us why she sometimes stars in movies.

But with thrillers like this, there’s always some last minute a-ha moment that’s supposed to be a surprise. So if you don’t like spoilers, first, grow up. Second, stop reading.

You probably know these movie moves, but there’s never a big, dramatic moment in a picture’s opening scene that doesn’t come back to bite a major character in the ass or haunt him; an actor of Crowe’s stature doesn’t play second fiddle unless there’s a good reason, story-wise; the affair is never just an affair. The first three scenes set up everything, and you’ll put the broken city back together long before Taggart does.

Broken City/R, 109 minutes/Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Playing this week

Argo
Regal Downtown Mall 6

Beasts of the
Southern Wild
Vinegar Hill Theatre

Broken City
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Django Unchained
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Finding Nemo 3D
Carmike Cinema 6

Flight
Carmike Cinema 6

Gangster Squad
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

A Haunted House
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Here Comes the Boom
Carmike Cinema 6

Hitchcock
Carmike Cinema 6

Hotel Transylvania
Carmike Cinema 6

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Hyde Park on the Hudson
Regal Downtown Mall 6

The Impossible
Regal Downtown Mall 6

Jack Reacher
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

The Last Stand
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Les Miserables
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Life of Pi
Regal Downtown Mall 6

Lincoln
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Mama
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Parental Guidance
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Red Dawn
Carmike Cinema 6

Rust and Bone
Regal Downtown Mall 6

The Sessions
Carmike Cinema 6

Silver Linings Playbook
Regal Downtown Mall 6

Skyfall
Regal Downtown Mall 6

Texas Chainsaw 3D
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

This is 40
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Wreck-It Ralph
Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Zero Dark Thirty/Regal Stonefield 14 and IMAX

Movie houses

Carmike Cinema 6
973-4294

Regal Downtown
Mall Cinema 6
979-7669

Regal Stonefield 14
and IMAX
244-3213

Vinegar Hill Theatre
977-4911

Comment Policy