Film review: Broken City

Broken City
Regency Enterprises

STARRING Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Barry Pepper, Kyle Chandler, Natalie Martinez, Jeffrey Wright
WRITTEN BY Brian Tucker
PRODUCED BY Randall Emmett, Mark Wahlberg, Stephen Levinson, Arnon Milchan, Teddy Schwarzman, Allen Hughes, Remington Chase
DIRECTED BY Allen Hughes

SHOT BY Ben Seresin
MUSIC BY Atticus Ross, Leo Ross, Claudia Sarne
EDITED BY Cindy Mollo
DISTRIBUTED BY 20th Century Fox

Screened 2012-01-15


Mark Wahlberg plays Billy Taggart, and with a name like that he’s tough and lovable all at once, and the name does explain away his character. Taggart’s an ex-cop. Taggart opened up his own P.I. business in Noo Yawk City and is seven years off the sauce. His live-in girlfriend is a slutty half-caste actress and they appear to have a great relationship – until it disintegrates over the course of a single evening, that is (spoiler alert). His major beef? He wasn’t thrilled about watching her wantonly rut with her co-actor in her Big Break piece of dogshit film, Kiss of Life. The exact words out of his drunken mouth that evening are, “You haven’t once asked about my feelings!” Taggart spends the rest of that night on an alcoholist’s jag, self-destructing down New York’s streets. Course when he is called to assist at a crime scene hours later there’s no evidence of this. What is he investigating? Mayor Russell Crowe hired Taggart to tail his wife, who he claims is sleeping with the campaign manager (Kyle Chandler) of his chief rival and mayoral candidate, and this rival is too much to take: Barry Pepper as Jack fucking Valliant (a name surely penned by a Dark Knight fan). In his first shot, Pepper emerges from a civic building like a wall street asshole, jacket open and cock flopping, surrounded by the chirping press, being the exact same guy you’ve seen many times before (and that’s without even trying).

The dogfight between the two candidates brings out Mayor Russell Crowe’s sinister side – a role Crowe can do very well, but which plays here like televised drama – and pits Mr. Taggart against (in an ingenious turn) sinister land developers the likes of – – Griffin Dunne? Why not, right? I’ve liked Dunne so it’s unfortunate to note that in his scenes with Crowe the chemistry between the two actors is laughable, the fault of which is anybody’s best guess. And the bald black mustached police chief, played by Jeffrey Wright (thankfully in attendance – favoring or just working?), always seems to be coming or going wherever Taggart goes or comes. Taggart at one point, and obviously, confronts the tailed wife who offers to sweep him from her husband’s contract into her own, and she’ll double his fee (I know: Wow). Mrs. Mayor Russell Crowe is played by Catherine Zeta-Jones, she doing a throaty, Kathleen Turner fatale voice – actually I should say “the” throaty Kathleen Turner fatale voice, because it’s almost a certainty that director Allen Hughes told her to do precisely this. It’s the sort of thing that would explain why the major talent in this film are sleepwalking through the motions of an amateur narrative; they’re doing favors for up-and-comers, no bones about it – perhaps screenwriter Brian Tucker is part of Wahlberg’s entourage?


There are more than a few sentiments in this film which emanate from The Street, that will never trust anything that has not come from The Street: big Nasty Corporate Condos are big and nasty; the mayor’s profound thoughts on dogs and cats, “If men are dogs, what does that make women?”; there’s the accepted and chummy homoerotic squirminess, delivered just before a scene where Mrs. Mayor promotes that HRC equals sign (an apology); there’s more than one point where The New York Times is derailed as the rag of “smart assholes” and that “real New Yorkers read the Post” (it would appear to be another instance in which this sentiment has arisen under one of Rupert Murdoch’s media arms). It’s single-mindedness that bores one into agony. Whatever the cause, Broken City is unquestionably an unnecessary film that works detective film clichés 1000 years old, and sucks at it. Visually director Hughes brings about zero to the table – I hope you like over-the-shoulder reverse shots, because you’ll be getting lots of them. There’s a reason why I hadn’t heard anything about this film, a reason why it was absent from – a reason why you must always view a film’s trailer if you’re getting “that feeling.” Oh, heaven, I should’ve known! I should’ve known! Come one, come all, to this Festival of Conventionality! The sights, the sounds, the smells that you’ve already experienced better elsewhere! You think Godard’s pretentious? This shit is pretentious.

written by David Ashley