This crime thriller feels like the kind of movie Mark Wahlberg’s The Other Guys was mocking. A detective on the edge, kicked off the force but pulled back into the game thanks to his dogged nature and unconventional manner.
Unfortunately for Allen Hughes’ movie, and thanks to Brian Tucker’s script, Broken City plays it straight the whole way and does not offer anything unique to the genre, so it comes across as a pedestrian, if solidly acted, affair.
Speaking of affairs, that is the hook that baits Wahlberg’s character into a web of corruption spun by Russell Crowe’s shit-eating grin. Yes, his grin alone can spin webs that would even tie up Peter Parker himself. Crowe’s mayor is a man who never forgets and always punishes.
The story begins with Wahlberg’s character in court for a controversial killing of a suspect, and though he seems to get away with it, he is kicked off the force. Years later, while working as a private investigator he is asked by Crowe’s mayor to investigate his wife, with the promise of a badly-needed reward for Wahlberg.
Tucker’s script (fresh off the Black List) is written with precision, with every scene conveying important information about characters, and paying off his setups in orderly fashion. That’s a problem however, as Tucker does not seem to push himself as a writer, let alone the characters.
Though Crowe has the meatier part, relishing the role of a scumbag and giving “I’m talking about this thing, but am actually talking about something else” dialogue, the story’s strength is Wahlberg’s ambiguous character. Having killed an unarmed suspect without any provocation other than his rage at the crime that was committed, Wahlberg walks a fine line between a man of law and a dangerous vigilante.
And as the story progresses throwing him curveballs, after years of being on the wagon, he reverts back to being an alcoholic, all of which promises to make the character memorable, however he’s not pushed far enough to stay lodged in the viewer’s memory.
The closest we get to something juicy is a montage of Wahlberg going off the rails in a drunken rage on the streets, but it’s over before it’s barely begun. He’s back in control and detective mode, seeking to find out why characters around him are lying to him and trying to kill him.
Up until that moment the story was fine, if predictable in its design, however five minutes before a car chase sequence, the script lazily throws crucial info at the character without him even trying too hard, and then the rampaging car shows up, and it’s downhill from there.
After The Book of Eli, this is a step down for Hughes. Even his visual sense doesn’t seem to carry over well in this movie. The acting calibre is the only thing keeping the story afloat, with appearances by Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, and the still gorgeous Catherine Zeta-Jones (what elixir is she drinking?)
I’m not going to make a pun about Broken City, I’m just going to recommend you watch any other film by the actors and director involved, they’ve done better work than this.