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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » March 27, 2013
Film review
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Broken City
March 27, 2013   
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The new offering from Allen Hughes (The Book of Eli, From Hell) cost $55 million to make, but in the two months since opening in the United States it has grossed less than $20 million at the box office, making it a resounding flop.

Despite an A-list cast with Academy Award winners Russell Crowe (Gladiator, A Beautiful Mind, The Insider) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago, Ocean’s Twelve, The Mask of Zorro), as well as Mark Wahlberg (The Italian Job, Boogie Nights, Fighter) in the leading role, neither viewers nor critics warmed up to Broken City. The general opinion is that debuting screenwriter Brian Tucker is to blame.

The titular Broken City is, of course New York, portrayed as a hotbed of crime, corruption, moral decay and all the other sins that humanity has invented over the millennia. Almost everyone seems to be possessed by evil, from the bottom rungs of the social ladder all the way to the top. That top rung is occupied by Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Crowe), who rules the city with absolute power and is seeking re-election. But he has a dangerous counter-candidate in Jack Valiant (Barry Pepper—Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile). Hostetler’s idea of dealing with political opponents is a simple one—to dig up enough dirt to smear all over those who stand in his way. It is a skill he has mastered by ruthlessly manipulating everyone around him.

One of the pawns in Hostetler’s game is Billy Taggart (Wahlberg), an ex-cop who lost his police job after he lynched a criminal and covered it up. Several years later, he is barely making ends meet as a private eye, busy spying on cheating husbands and wives while battling his inner demons, a drinking problem included. The unexpected job he gets from Hostetler is his opportunity to get out of the woods. The mayor wants his wife Cathleen (Zeta-Jones) followed, so he can find out who her supposed lover is. What first seems like a simple assignment turns out to have serious complications. Things soon get out of hand and instead of doing his job, Taggart has to fight for his life.

A dark city harboring gloomy secrets, corrupt officials who are no strangers to crime and a lone man of honor struggling with his emotions and complicated past. We have seen it all hundreds of times before. Tucker’s script brings nothing new to the convention and for most of the time, it is totally predictable and ridden with plot holes. The movie does, however, boast good cinematography which is highly reminiscent of film noir.

The actors are good, but the script just won’t let them shine. Crowe’s roles in Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential (1997) and Ridley Scott’s American Gangster (2007) showed he feels perfectly at home in film noir, but this time his character is composed of clichés. Zeta-Jones has the same problem. The main role, in turn, seems to be too hard for Wahlberg, whose acting style is very restrained, putting it mildly. Admittedly, Wahlberg was not too keen to take the role in the first place. As one of the movie’s producers, he first offered the role to Michael Fassbender (Prometheus, Inglourious Basterds) and when Fassbender declined, he decided to play Taggart himself.
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