When ex-cop turned private investigator Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) is asked by the Mayor of New York City, Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) to follow his wife, Cathleen Hostetler (Catherine Zeta-Jones) due to his suspicion she’s having an affair, Billy begins to realise he’s involved in something a lot more dangerous than he first anticipated. Billy has to decide what he’s going to do when he ends up being involved in the deceptive world of politics and so becomes aligned with his old NYPD Captain, Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) as they try and solve the mystery together. Add into the mix Barry Pepper as Jack Valliant, the candidate running for office against Hostetler and we have ourselves another dramatic film based around the ever suspicious goings on of politics in Allen Hughes’ Broken City.
The film starts strongly with it’s set up; we see the dark opening (which is shot wonderfully) and the fall out from that. By the hour mark however things start to turn stale. There are elements in the film that simply don’t need to be there, such as Billys apparent alcohol addiction. It’s scarcely explained and there’s no real motive for the audience to not want him to drink. There’s also the storyline between his long term girlfriend that is seemingly dropped half way through and the teased romance/affection with his assistant. In a way it’s good that the filmmakers didn’t go down the Hollywood romance with this as it would have strayed even further from the point. The film simply didn’t need to be as long as it was, if whittled down by 20, maybe even 30 minutes, we’d have a film that would keep us engaged throughout; instead we’re left with a film that, by the half way point we’ve drifted out of and stopped caring about. While having so much time to play with, the ending is a little anti-climatic and rushed. There’s no huge pop to send the audience home elated, instead giving off more of a shoulder shrugged “okay that’ll do”. For a film that we’ve invested so much time in we don’t want “that will do”, we want “that was awesome”.
This isn’t to say any of the performers take away from the film, quite the opposite, without such strong performances consistently over the board this film would fall flat on it’s face. Something I always enjoy seeing (I’m a Wahlberg guy) is Mark Wahlberg taking a step back from his big, tough, actiony hero role that we associate him with. He has a lot more to offer than the big action hero, not to say he doesn’t do well in these roles, but it’s nice to see him step into something a little more personal and dramatic. Crowe is vindictive, charming and conniving as the Mayor. Zeta-Jones plays her mysterious role very well and you’re never really sure what you’re getting between Mr & Mrs Hostetler. Something which is paining to say is Barry Pepper’s performance just isn’t quite there, apart from a great moment about half way through Pepper is rather plain as Jack Valliant. Was this just a rare uninspired performance by BP? Or did the director, Allen Hughes, somehow manage to let him slip by unnoticed. Hughes has been quite successful in his young career, with his past two features (From Hell, The Book of Eli) being well received. Hopefully this won’t be too much of a blip in his career as I fear it was the inexperience of first time writer Brian Tucker that sadly let this film down. Not to say it wasn’t a good effort for a first timer, it just felt like he tried to cram far too much in, trying to over layer a film that simply didn’t need it.
Broken City has a very smooth, cool feel to it which helped give off a traditional private eye film-feel. It wasn’t loud and brash, there was a delicacy used when making this film and it worked. It wasn’t about gun fights, car chases and bashing peoples’ faces in with your bare fists, all of which do happen in the film – but it’s done with finesse rather than ferocity. The story is about politics, betrayal and redemption. It’s a shame we didn’t get more of Wahlberg and Crowe together because the film needed a bigger show down between them, not in the violent sense but in a self-satisfying sort of way for the audience.
Despite the films flaws it’s well worth a watch and you can purchase Broken City now on Digital HD download which is good for people who like to watch films early, anytime, anywhere. Broken City will also be released on Blu-Ray & DVD in 3 weeks time (USA)
Rating: The Solid Acting Is Let Down By The Thin Story (5/10)