Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence
20th Century Fox
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and on demand
It’s easy to warm to actors like Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe because they are so at ease and confident in front of the camera. But, like standouts in any profession, there’s only so much weight they can carry. In “Broken City” they start with a hefty load, and it becomes unbearable due to a subpar Brian Tucker screenplay and lackluster execution from director Allen Hughes (“The Book of Eli”).
The movie tells the story of New York City Police detective Billy Taggart (Wahlberg), a well-meaning lawman that winds up in court after shooting a thug that he believes raped and murdered his girlfriend’s sister. Although Taggart is cleared of wrongdoing, his police captain (Jeffrey Wright) and the New York City mayor (Crowe) remove him from duty.
Seven years later, Taggart is working as a low-rent private detective when the mayor asks him to spy on his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and tell him whom she is having an affair with. Desperate for cash, Taggart takes the lucrative assignment, but feels betrayed when the man that he implicates is killed. Convinced that the mayor ordered the murder, Taggart decides to bring the politician to justice.
The setup for “Broken City” is solid, and Whalberg and Crowe do a fine job establishing their characters. Sadly, Hughes’ work is less compelling. In telling the story, he takes viewers on a circuitous journey that’s littered with subplots. Some of these side stories are fascinating, and dragging a mystery-thriller through twists and turns is a solid strategy. But Hughes’ work is confounding because many of the subplots, including one involving Taggart’s girlfriend, are seriously underdeveloped.
Since the film runs only 109 minutes, Hughes could have reasonably fleshed things out without sacrificing pacing. In fact, the additional depth would have made the characters more appealing and added to the excitement of the plot. As presented, however, the film will leave many viewers scratching their heads when they should be squirming on edges of their seats.
DVD and Blu-ray extras include deleted scenes and a making-of feature.