*1/2 (out of 5)
January 18, 2013
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
Directed by: Allen Hughes
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I’m going to warn you right now: This is going to be an incredibly lazy review from me. I just don’t have the energy to think about “Broken City,” much less write anything coherent about it. But I’m okay with phoning this review in. After all, this is exactly what it appeared everyone involved in the film did.
So, I’m giving “Broken City” back as much consideration, forethought and courtesy as the film showed me.
First, the synopsis… “Broken City” is about a former NYPD detective named Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) who loses his job after he possibly murdered a known rapist and murderer. He becomes a private detective, and the mayor (Russell Crowe) hires him to find the man who’s having an affair with his wife. However, when Billy digs deeper, he discovers some dangerous secrets.
Sounds like lazy writing to me. And that’s just the beginning. Even worse than the lazy, uninspired and sometimes incoherent writing, “Broken City” committed the worst sin a film can commit: It bored me.
It’s advertised as a gritty action thriller, and you might expect that coming from Allen Hughes, who happens to be one-half of the Hughes Brothers. They’re the team that brought us films like “Menace II Society,” “Dead Presidents,” “From Hell” and “Book of Eli.” While I’ve never been a fan of this team, at least I respected them as filmmakers.
However, with half of the Hughes Brothers, you end up with less than half of a film. The movie plods along, making its relatively short running time of 109 minutes seem to drag mercilessly. There are long, meandering conversations between people either about nothing or rehashing things that we already know. I suppose this is Hughes’ own tribute to screenwriter Brian Tucker’s dialogue, but there’s no power behind it. It could have practically been written in another language, and you’d be able to glean what was happening because of the overall simplicity of the story.
In addition to terrible dialogue, the film lacks direction. Multiple plot points are introduced, and sometimes they come to a head. However, these complications are left unresolved and often simply ignored by the end of the film. You’re lead to believe things are interconnected and somehow relate to each other. They don’t. I don’t even think these were put in as red herrings. Again, I attribute it to lazy writing.
For example, there’s an aspect to Taggart that he has given up drinking. It takes forever to really address this issue in the film (even though it could have shown up much earlier in a very organic way), and at one point the movie threatens to derail as much as “Flight” did. However, like many of the other human drama moments, this plot line fizzles almost completely and is never mentioned. Ever again.
That’s not to say the film is all bad. It’s competently shot, and while the characters are paint-by-numbers constructions, the actors behind them do their best to give them some life. Sadly, that’s not enough. Wahlberg, as well as Jeffrey Wright, dip into their stock character formula too much. It works to a degree for Wahlberg, who is usually at his most enjoyable when he’s treading familiar ground. However, Wright just comes across as another grumbling, grumpy old man who hasn’t gotten that old yet.
Russell Crowe and Barry Pepper seem to dive into their roles as rival mayoral candidates, but Crowe looks extremely uncomfortable, sporting a fake tan at the level of Mitt Romney on Telemundo. Pepper seizes his character, but his passion is misdirected to the point that I don’t know whether I should root for him or not.
In short, “Broken City” is a mess. It’s a broken movie.
But don’t worry. We’ll all forget about this one by February.