Out Now On-Demand
Proof can be a powerful weapon.
Mark Wahlberg is Billy, an ex-cop now private detective, hired by the mayor of New York City (Russell Crowe) to identify the lover of his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) in this hard-boiled thriller. But when the affair turns deadly, Billy's relentless pursuit of justice brings him up against the corrupt mayor's political ambitions.
This is the first solo feature from director Allen Hughes, better known as one half of directing team the Hughes brothers (alongside twin brother Albert). The pair previously partnered on The Book of Eli, From Hell, Dead Presidents and Menace II Society.
Rating: R16 contains violence & offensive language
Boasting a great supporting cast and a script that featured on 2008’s Black List (the best unproduced screenplays of that year), Broken City fails to make any points about political corruption, or even tell an entertaining story. Alarm bells started ringing when every terse exchange proved chuckle worthy. Brian Tucker’s script shoots for noir-style banter but winds up a pale imitation of it, and the supposedly twisty plot is brain-numbingly straight-forward.
Things might have benefitted from a director who could set an arch tone and play things for wry laughs (and I’m not sure this was ever intended to be taken seriously- the ‘good’ mayoral candidate is called Valliant for God’s sake). But Allen Hughes strips away any sense of fun and the film ends up a grim slog that desperately wants to be taken seriously. Apart from a few swooshy camera moves there is little of the visual panache he has displayed in the past (when directing with his twin brother Albert).
The blame for the squandered potential of the cast (including some familiar faces from TV shows The Wire and Generation Kill) must lie with Hughes too. There are multiple scenes where I’m sure they just used the first take and said ‘good enough’. The actors seem unable to dig into their performances, and I wound up feeling like I was watching CSI or something. Mark Wahlberg is given some juicy material to play with but is content to do what he always does: take up screen space like a partially sentient loaf of bread. Good thing Russell Crowe and Jeffrey Wright are at hand to liven up proceedings occasionally.
So basically, it’s a sweaty cheeseburger of a movie posing as fine dining. Forty years on from the golden era of political thrillers, is ‘Hey, some politicians are corrupt' really the best Hollywood can do?
AV Club (USA)
Little White Lies (UK)
Los Angeles Times
Total Film (UK)