Dir: Allen Hughes, US, 2013, 74 min
Review by Dan Collacott
Allen Hughes helms this gritty and stylish neo-noir crime thriller about municipal corruption. Mark Wahlberg stars as the embittered former cop turned private investigator Billy Taggert, hired by corrupt New York Mayor, Hostetier (Russell Crowe) to gather proof of his wife’s extra marital dalliances. The city is on the brink of Mayoral elections and Hostetier believes revelations of an affair will damage his campaign against golden newcomer (aptly named) Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper).
On the surface it appears that the glamorous Cathleen Hostetetier (Catherine Zeta Jones) is romantically involved with the opposition’s campaign manager Paul Andrews (Kyle Chandler). But things take a more sinister turn when Andrews is found shot dead, and Taggert realises he was used to uncover a plot to oust Hostetetier as Mayor. Angry at being double-crossed, Taggert has to make several moral decisions to help bring Hostetetier to justice, even if it means sacrificing himself in the process.
Hughes keeps the film dark and stylized with circling cameras and an ambiance sustained by the effective electronic score by Attic Ross (he of Trent Reznor collaboration fame). New York looks as intense and spectacular as if Michael Mann were at the helm, but the film doesn’t have the gothic sensibilities or substance of From Hell or The Book of Elli (which Allen collaborated with his brother on). The script itself has plenty of caustic, wise cracking dialogue, and there is plenty of rich onscreen chemistry between Wahlberg and Crowe.
Sadly, the plotting is at times clumsy and forgettable because most of what happens is horribly pedestrian and predictable. The relationship between Taggert and his beautiful wife Natalie Martinez (Natalie Barrow) is meant to be at the heart of the story, as both the reason for him losing his police job and central to him facing his demons at the end. Yet strangely this subplot is jettisoned half way through when she leaves him after a public spat; thus dramatically devaluing much of what happens in the first quarter of the film. Her family’s connections to the housing project the Mayor is selling off along with Taggert’s longstanding drinking problem both feel distinctly undercooked plot points.
There are also a few other things merely alluded to, such as the Police Chief’s own affair with the Mayor’s wife and Andrews’ same sex relationship with Mayoral opponent Jack Valliant. On the plus side, Broken City wins the Ron Burgundy ‘I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch’ award for the most whiskey consumed in a film. Broken City is by no means bad, it just doesn’t bring much new to the table.