MOVIE: ** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5)
Mark Wahlberg as BILLY TAGGART
Russell Crowe as MAYOR HOSTETLER
Catherine Zeta-Jones as CATHLEEN HOSTETLER
Jeffrey Wright as CARL FAIRBANKS
Barry Pepper as JACK VALLIANT
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Directed by: Allen Hughes
BY KEVIN CARR
In my dozen or so years of film criticism, one thing I have learned is that things can change. Opinions can change. It’s unlikely to loath a movie when you first see it and then love it upon a second viewing on home video months later (unless there is an element to the film that you first missed, and that does happen from time to time). More often, a movie that was felt sour about when seeing it in theaters improves a bit on DVD and Blu-ray.
That’s not to say that the filmmaking quality took a sudden leap from the theater to the television screen. It’s more a case of the film feeling more appropriate for home viewing. I’ve found this to often happen with films that just didn’t seem worthy of a theatrical release and play better on home video because they are seem to be something you’d stumble on while surfing the cable channels rather than something you’d drive out of your way for and pay $10 or more to see.
This is how I felt with “Broken City.” I saw it in the theater after a very long day, so the drawn-out, somewhat plodding script was a chore to get through. There was no option to pause the film or finish it later. And when a movie like this, which breathes more than it should, that can be rough.
My grade for the film hasn’t jumped to five stars, but I’m a wearing softer gloves in this sparring round because “Broken City” competes better in an arena with mediocre direct-to-video films.
The movie itself follows a former NYPD detective named Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) who is fired after and incident in which he shot and killed a local rapist and murderer. Taggart accepts his fate and becomes a private detective, but his friendship with the mayor (Russell Crowe) still stands. Years after the incident, the mayor hires Taggart to investigate his wife, whom he believes is having an affair. However, the more Taggart investigates the case, the more he discovers things are not what they seem.
The script is the weakest part of “Broken City,” featuring some meandering dialogue and plot elements that are never quite resolved. I find the weak script to be an oddity considering writer Brian Tucker was praised heavily for it when it was making its unproduced rounds in Hollywood. However, a quick glance at the credits reveals what also might have been the problem: the film has eleven executive producers and eight producers. That’s more people involved in oversight than the principle cast of a dozen or so.
It seems that everyone had a hand in the development of this film, and what could have been a strong film noir tribute got pulled in too many directions. Director Allen Hughes, who represents only half of the respected Hughes Brothers, doesn’t seem to have had the vision and focus to really make the movie pop. And for all of his praise to the editor of the film in the special features, “Broken City” could have benefited from a tighter editing job and a simple sense of it being okay to leave things on the cutting room floor.
The cast of the film is quite impressive, yet no one really nails his or her performance. Wahlberg plays another version of his basic character from many films of the past, most recently being “Contraband.” Catherine Zeta-Jones plays the stoic, suspicious wife. At least she’s not embarrassing herself like she did in “Rock of Ages” last summer. Russell Crowe delivers an interesting performance, though he lays on the political cheese a bit thick at times. And finally, Jeffrey Wright settles into his stock performance as a grumbling figure of authority who plays things off a lot cooler than he really is.
Still, with all of these things considered, “Broken City” does not play out as a total loser on the small screen. The sometimes pointless and out-of-place dialogue is unimportant, so it can be enjoyed as a distraction in a home setting. What becomes boring in a movie theater becomes throwaway lines that you don’t need to bother rewinding to hear.
So “Broken City” isn’t a great film, nor is it really a good film. However, it will do for a diversion on home video.
The Blu-ray features some deleted scenes and an alternate ending. There’s also a 30-minute featurette that examines the different aspects of the filmmaking process and Hughes’ vision for the film as a film noir throwback with pervasive themes of voyeurism.