Honesty has a price and history is the debt collector. Broken City takes a cop who made a bad decision then adds a Mayor keeping score and presents you with a recipe for deception. This is the position detective Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) finds himself in and the result means a seat on the bench until Mayor Nick Hostetler calls him up for the ‘end game’ days out from a re-election voting day. The Mayor suspecting his wife Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) of being unfaithful calls a favour from Taggart and so the fuse is lit.
If there is one thing Broken City proved to me it’s that Mark Wahlberg may be a more versatile actor than Tom Cruise. Ouch, did that come out loud?! Now, this may be the shock our sensibilities need but I think Mark Wahlberg would have been the better actor to have filled Jack Reacher’s shoes. If anything should be conceded it’s the fact that Wahlberg does ‘street rough’ better than Tom. Hey, even Tom Cruise would concede he can’t do ‘moody’. That’s just something a Scientologist couldn’t admit to. Wahlberg can present an uneasy hero onscreen and it gives the audience both empathy and expectation. Both of these characteristics play well into a director’s hands as he can keep the audience rooting for the character to the end.
Of less worthy recognition was Russell Crowe. This was not an iconic role for the Gladiator. In all honesty, I felt like he pulled the Jeffrey Wigand character back out of his 2000 movie, The Insider, and gave it a tux and whisky glass to see if it would work. Even the voice was more Jeffrey Wigand and less New York native. It simply didn’t work and the movie suffered from producing the role it really needed to push the storyline to the limit.
I was expecting less from Broken City and yet it delivered so much more. Yes, a predictable political thriller in some respects, but actually it was true to the genre rather than boring by script. Like any good thriller, there must be multiple suspects, false starts and dead ends to keep the movie from petering out at 60 minutes and thankfully we had both a script and a cast that didn’t disappoint. Watch for a superb performance from Jeffrey Wright as the Police Commissioner. His menacing grip on the politics and the way he plays off the other characters will keep the neurons itching to work out what is his motivation or who is pulling his strings. Catherine Zeta-Jones simply didn’t get enough screen time and she deserved it. The lady has class and should be picking up more roles that allow her presence on-screen rather than trying to dance hip-hop in Rock of Ages. Barry Pepper also continues to impress. I loved his Bobby Kennedy role in the TV mini-series, The Kennedys and this role of upstart Connecticut mayoral candidate Jack Valliant (yup, real name), was a role to play with for Pepper. There is one emotional cliff-edge moment that he drives home in style. Brilliant performance.
Mark Wahlberg not only starred in but also produced this movie bringing in director Allen Hughes to pick up on the script from first-time writer Brian Tucker. Hughes enabled the movie to keep a dark yet foreboding story through some well-lit sets that mixed warmth and dark in an uneasy tango. It was an interesting mix that could keep an audience in a state of dilemma asking am I comfortable or simply being set up. Broken City has moments of brilliance thanks mainly to the supporting cast and enough of an entertaining maze to make it worth entering the front door of the theatre.
3 out of 5 popcorns