In a nutshell, Broken City is a barely average thriller with a super cast. Marky Mark Wahlberg is a former New York cop turned private investigator. The city’s mayor, played by Russell Crowe, hires him to dig up some dirt on his wife, played by Catherine Zeta Jones, in the lead up to his re-election campaign against a wealthy but inexperienced opponent played by Barry Pepper (it’s been a while since he was the sniper in Saving Ryan’s Privates). And Wahlberg’s long-term girlfriend, Natalie Martinez (Death Race, End of Watch), happens to be an aspiring actress who just landed her first feature role.
As you would expect, nothing is really as it seems. Everyone has a past and a secret and the stakes gradually get higher and higher until it all comes to a head. The end.
I may sound unenthusiastic about Broken City but it’s actually not that bad. There’s nothing new about the corruption-centered, politically driven plot, including all the expected twists and turns, but there is enough drama and tension to keep the film afloat for it’s 109-minute running time (a suitable length for a film of this kind). And it’s always good to see confident heavyweights and Academy Award winners like Crowe and Jones strutting their stuff.
That said, the standout of the film was not any of the big stars, but Alona Tal, who plays Whalberg’s sassy secretary. The cute banter between the two resulted in the film’s most enjoyable scenes.
On the other hand, there were parts of the film that felt somewhat rough around the edges. A few characters, their reactions and interactions didn’t quite feel authentic. Flaws probably more attributable to the script than the stylish direction of Allen Hughes (From Hell, The Book of Eli – though those were along with his brother Albert).
I came into this movie thinking that it was going to be a gritty cop drama in the vein of Training Day or Street Kings, but it wasn’t anywhere as heavy duty as those films. At the end of the day, the best way to describe Broken City is to call it an adequate, occasionally enjoyable mystery drama that doesn’t break any new ground. There’s nothing horribly wrong with it but there’s also nothing that really stands out either, meaning it’s likely to be one of those films no one will remember in a few years.
3 stars out of 5