New York City cop Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) is relieved of his duty after being tried and acquitted of murder. Several years later, as Billy is working as a private investigator, he stumbles onto corruption that goes all the way to the stop.
Broken City feels like the latest in a long line of political/cop thrillers to emerge in cinemas in recent years. The trouble is that while the film tries to be different and clever, it ends up being anything but.
Mark Wahlberg and a notably slimmed down Russell Crowe are the two men who are going to war with one another, and each manage their role well. The trouble is that we have seen Wahlberg play the tough guy act many times at this stage and, fresh from his role as Javert, it seems that Crowe is reprising his role from Les Misérables, albeit less cartoonish and a little more corrupt. Neither one really gets to live up to the promise of their role and the women do not fare any better.
Catherine Zeta-Jones is all mystery in sunglasses throughout the film, but she does not get to do much more than give cryptic messages on bridges and the like. It’s a shame that she seems to be playing a photocopy of some of her better roles. Natalie Martinez and Alona Tal are little more than window dressing, but at least they give Billy something to fight for.
Broken City is scribed by first timer Brian Tucker, and sadly, this shows. The plot is needlessly complex and convoluted and just as the audience gets a handle on the story, it twists out of their grasp and becomes something else. Director Allen Hughes is arguably nest known as one half of The Hughes Brothers (with his brother Albert), and made his name with films like Menace II Society and From Hell. While From Hell may have been a departure for the director, it seems as though he is out of his depth here, as the film is over blown and drawn out, and lacks the nuance it needed to make it a truly great story. As well as this, plot points are introduced then disappear, leaving the final product holey and messy.
In all, Broken City could have been a truly great crime thriller; all the ingredients are there. Instead, in the hands of a first time writer and a director trying to diversify, the film feels overlong and messy, although there are some truly great moments.