Broken City is a slick looking political thriller, full of twists and turns. But will it get your vote, or will it loose by a landslide?
Broken City tells the story of one time cop Billy Taggart (Mark Whalberg). Forced to resign due to his involvement in a controversial shooting, he becomes a private detective. Years later he is hired by Mayor Nicholas Hostetler for the seemingly straightforward task of investigating his wife’s (Catherine Zeta-Jones) alleged infidelity. But with an election looming, is that really all there is to it?
This being a political thriller, one expects a certain amount of confusion – it’s part of the appeal. You want to feel like you can keep guessing how it’s all going to end, right up to the last second. This does make Broken City a little hard to review fairly since there is much in this film that is confusing, and it is hard to separate deliberate misdirection from sloppy writing. I find a good test for this is if I leave the theatre feeling frustrated by things that were never resolved, or questions that were never answered. In the case of Broken City I have to say, overall I felt satisfied – there were a few minor sub-plots that seemed a little pointless in the long run, but nothing which spoiled the film overall.
Mark Wahlberg has the majority of screen time as maverick renegade cop Billy Taggart. As an actor, Mark Wahlberg is something of a blank canvas. He has a sort of stock Mark Wahlberg character that he defaults to when his character isn’t doing anything especially interesting in a film, which can get a little boring when he is cast in the wrong role. He is much better suited to quirky, funny characters with big personalities – see, for example, I Heart Huckabees – arguably his best movie and very much worth watching in its own right. In Broken City, Wahlberg’s acting style works quite well – when the plot is on hold so we can learn something about Billy Taggart as a character, he delivers, and when the action ramps up there’s enough going on that we don’t notice that he has simply stopped acting. Russell Crowe as Mayor Hostetler has all of the memorable lines in Broken City and he delivers them well with his unique Russell Crowe style gravitas. He’s also one of the best at treading that fine line between charming and likeable, and pure evil, which makes him perfect for this role.
The thing about Broken City over all is, there’s nothing really wrong with it – the odd plot hole here, the odd awkward bit of dialogue there maybe, but nothing that really stands out as bad. If someone told me they were going to see this film, I would make no effort to try and stop them. On the other hand, this isn’t a movie to get really excited about either. If someone asked me what movie they should go and see this week, I could probably think of something better.
To sum up
If you’re always looking for your next political thriller fix, or you really like Mark Wahlberg movies, you could certainly do a lot worse. If not, I would recommend waiting till this one comes out on DVD.