When disgraced cop turned private detective Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) is hired by New York Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) to tail his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), he uncovers a city-wide conspiracy of corruption, sex, and murder. With his life threatened at every turn, Billy finds himself faced with an impossible choice, which could have disastrous repercussions for his career and family.
Review by Louise Keller:
Excelling in the smarmy stakes, Russell Crowe is back in form as a crooked New York Mayor who takes because he can and because it feels good. Also flawed, but walking the tight rope to redemption, is Mark Wahlberg as a former cop turned private eye, while Jeffrey Wright brings some surprises as the Police Commissioner who is involved deeply in everything that is going down. Directed by Allen Hughes, Broken City is an absorbing, well executed thriller with a top line cast. If there's a quibble, it's that the plot is so complex and intent on delivering red herrings that some of the revelations fall flat. I found myself scrambling at times to hear vital lines of dialogue.
In a pivotal moment at the beginning of the film, we meet Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) at the scene of a crime; gun in hand. This scene has relevance and there are repercussions. Watch also for an important scene involving Mayor Hostetler (Crowe), Taggart (Wahlberg) and Commissioner Fairbanks (Wright) in which it is made clear they are all deeply involved.
Seven years later, Taggart is on the wagon, committed to his beautiful actress girlfriend Natalie Barrow (Natalie Martinez) and trying to make ends meet with his detective agency. Alona Tal as his Girl Friday Katy, is a great asset. Kiss of Life might be the title of Natalie's first indie film in which she stars, but it becomes the kiss of death for their relationship when a raunchy sex scene tips Taggart over the edge in a jealous rage.
These are all side elements for the main event which is the race to the polls between Hostetler and the Connecticut contender Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper, excellent). Big money and a low-class housing project are key issues and Taggart gets drawn in to investigate the alleged infidelity by Hostetler's bitter wife (Catherine Zeta Jones, well cast). As she says, this is not a simple case of adultery.
The best moments are those between Crowe and Wahlberg, with Crowe commanding and deliciously corrupt. The little boy smile he delivers at key moments is most effective in contrast to his ruthlessness. Good solid action and performances - confused by plot.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Mark Wahlberg builds a credible and complex charaterisation as the flawed character whose route to redemption is paved with treachery. He's the best thing going for Broken City, which feels somewhat contrived and vaguely derivative with its city development corruption plot.
Russell Crowe plays New York Mayor Nicholas Hostetler who suppresses evidence that might cause detective Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) some serious problems. This is murkily revealed at the opening, before we jump seven years and the time for Hostetler to call in his moral IOU. He commissions Taggart to seek proof his wife is having an affair with someone, and indeed, the way the film is shot we are led to believe he's right.
There is a more corrupt commercial reason behind the spying, though, which threatens to land Taggart in serious trouble when the man supposedly misbehaving with Mrs Hostetler is the political campaign manager for the Mayor's competition at the upcoming city hall elections.
The plot is B grade, to be sure, but Allen Hughes does his best to dress it up to something with 'meaning' - like corruption in high places ... gee, really? It doesn't help that some of the dialogue is lost and the story telling is a little bit garbled at times.
Catherine Zeta-Jones has a rather sedate role as the disengaged wife, and Geoffrey Wright is rather heavy handed as the police chief. For the real deal in this genre, go rent L.A. Confidential or Chinatown.
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BROKEN CITY (MA15+)
CAST: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper
PRODUCER: Allen Hughes, Mark Wahlberg, Randall Emmett, George Furla, Stephen Levinson, Teddy Schwartzman
DIRECTOR: Allen Hughes
SCRIPT: Brian Tucker
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Ben Seresin
EDITOR: Cindy Mollo
MUSIC: Atticus Ross, Leo Ross, Claudia Sarne
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Tom Duffield
RUNNING TIME: 109 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 7, 2013