Broken City Can't be Fixed
- Friday, January 18, 2013
DVD Release Date: April 30, 2013
Theatrical Release Date: January 18, 2013
Rating: Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence
Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Run Time: 109 minutes
Director: Allen Hughes
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, Kyle Chandler
Another year, another drama where Mark Wahlberg gets to act tough. This time around he’s Billy Taggart, an ex-cop turned private eye. Billy’s struggling financially (collections are not his strong suit) until an old friend calls. Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe, Les Misérables) needs a favor and it’s an offer Billy can’t refuse—not in his financial situation, and not with their shared history. It seems the Mayor thinks his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rock of Ages) is having an affair and with the election on the line His Honor needs to know the name of the other man before the press gets wind of it.
Under the circumstances it seems a fairly reasonable request, but the First Lady of NYC may be hiding more than an illicit love affair. The Mayor claims his actions are for the good of the people, but it may well be the only “people” he cares about is the one in the mirror. In this city nothing and no one is quite what they seem. As Jeffrey Wright, who plays Police Commissioner Fairbanks, said, it’s "a kind of contemporary Humphrey Bogart story, taking place against a backdrop of treachery and intrigue where everyone is ambitious in one way or another."
Wahlberg, who also produced the film, may not be Humphrey Bogart but he gives a serviceable performance as Billy, the man who may lose everything on his road to redemption. He occasionally manages to speak volumes with the lift of an eyebrow, he acquits himself well in multiple violent fight scenes, and he’s believable—if not particularly exciting—as our erstwhile hero.
Russell Crowe disappears into the fake-tanned, plastic-haired, smile-while-he-stabs-you-in-the-back Mayor Hostetler. He’s the sort of politician you hope isn’t realistic but fear is typical—and even when you’re sure he’s bad to the bone he almost wins you over during the candidate’s debate. Maybe he thinks he’s on the side of the angels, maybe not… but in this broken city the lines between good men and bad are mighty blurry.
Billy’s assistant, Katie, (Alona Tal) is that staple of the hard-boiled detective story, the wisecracking, loyal secretary with an acid tongue and a heart of gold. Sure, she’s a stereotype, but Katie gets some of the best lines and Tal delivers them with style. Zeta-Jones plays the mayor’s long-suffering wife with a finely-controlled tension that suits the part, but it would have been nice if she’d had more to do. At least she gets to spend one scene in the most beautiful dress seen on screen in recent memory.
The MPAA rating mentions “pervasive language” and they certainly got that right. The f-bomb is dropped with such regularity the writer must have had it programmed on a shortcut key. It’s obvious the characters are hard-nosed bad guys; there was no need to belabor the point with that much profanity. It’s one of several areas where it seemed the film seemed to be trying too hard to be edgy. Another was a gratuitous sex scene Billy reluctantly watches in a movie; the point of the scene would have been better illustrated by watching his expressions rather than showing so much naked, heaving flesh. Then there were the random "artsy" shots where we see the action through a screen or a window… not bad in and of themselves, but out of character with the rest of the film.
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