Broken City

broken cityReleased: 2013
Director: Allen Hughes
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe

Nothing new, a bit forgettable but still a good watch


There are some things that come around every year – the panic to fill out the tax-return, the complaints that Easter Eggs are in the shops too early, jokes about there being a hosepipe ban every time there’s a slight rainfall during the summer. We can now add to this the annual Mark Wahlberg tough but good guy film. This year’s offering is New York based Broken City which sees Wahlberg’s ex cop Billy Taggart face up to Russell Crowe’s scheming Mayor Hostetler.

Billy Taggart is an ex police officer who has been forced out of the New York Police Department in controversial circumstances and is now working as a private detective. He is approached by Mayor Hostetler, only days away from a tough re-election bid, who wants to know if his glamorous wife Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is having an affair and if so, with whom. The more Billy digs the more he realises that this isn’t a simple case of uncovering marital infidelity and that the seemingly decent Hostetler isn’t all that he seems.

This is a film of two halves. One half is that of great performances and a cracking good script, the other half is that of a fairly ponderous story which offers nothing new. Corruption in City Hall is a well-worn path and director Allen Hughes (working without brother Albert for the first time) brings nothing new to the genre. What Hughes has done isn’t bad, it’s actually pretty good – but it’s nothing to get excited about.

Thank God then for the brilliant performances. The film completely comes to life and is at its best when Wahlberg and Crowe are facing up against each other. Wahlberg is great at playing the decent everyday Joe Schmo and it works really well here. The audience is probably always one step ahead of him but it’s fun to watch him work out what’s going on. Crowe makes a good bad guy, eminently hissable and Catherine Zeta-Jones exudes old-school glamour as the Mayor’s wife, it’s a shame she’s under-used. The love-story between Billy and actress girlfriend Natalie feels forced and superfluous, much more fun is the sparky relationship he has with assistant Katy played by Israeli actress Alona Tal.

The script is sharp and better than the storyline deserves. It moves things along nicely and unlike other films recently (I’m thinking of you Gangster Squad) knows how to insert amusing lines to ease tension without breaking into inappropriate slapstick.

Broken City has a decent script and a damn good cast. There’s nothing new here and you’ll probably forget about it not too long after you’ve seen it but while you’re watching it you’ll have a really good time and will probably want to watch it again in a few months time.  Then again a few months after that. There could be worse annual traditions than a solid if unexceptional Wahlberg film like this.

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