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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
Released about a month ago, Broken City stars Mark Wahlberg as a down-on-his-luck P.I. and Russell Crowe as the running-for-reelection mayor of New York City. The film starts out well as the mayor hires Wahlberg to find evidence that his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is cheating on him. We get some mystery and some intrigue. Watching Wahlberg tailing the mayor’s wife and possibly catching her in the act is engaging to watch. About midway through the film, though, everything starts to breakdown.
It is no secret that Broken City is a political thriller (with some shades of noir), and, of course, there is a lot more to the mayor and his wife’s apparent cheating than meets the eye. The second half the movie spends its time with Wahlberg trying to discover what he was actually sent after to find for the mayor and the reasons behind it. Yeah, the mayor is shady – that is obvious from the first scene – but he is up to and his actual motivations are the complete focus of the final hour.
The problem is that when all is revealed, it is a bit of a letdown. Like Quantum of Solace, I was left with a disappointed sense of “Oh, that’s it?” when it came to the mystery. I really do not want to go into any more detail than that as I do not want to give away any of the other twists or turns Broken City has to offer (as some are legitimately interesting and somewhat unexpected). The real problem is that when you start to think about what the mayor was up to after it is revealed, none of it actually makes sense (even for movie logic).
Not helping matters are the superfluous subplots and characters. Wahlberg’s character is on the wagon and (spoilers) about mid-way through, he falls off it. He goes on a brief, half-night bender and nothing negative comes from it. In fact, he drinks the rest of the movie and it does not affect him adversely at all. So, what was the point of that character trait? Also, Wahlberg has an actress girlfriend. At the film’s halfway point, the movie gets rid of her as she has become inconvenient to the plot.
It is amazing how everything falls apart in this movie at almost the exact same time.
Broken City is not an entirely bad film. It kept my interest, and I genuinely liked Walhberg’s character. The acting is very good as well. Russell Crowe is usually good in anything he is in, and this is no exception (I love his New Yorker accent). Catherine Zeta-Jones, however, is completely wasted in her role. Granted, her character is important, but I do not think it required an actress of her caliber (it is tough to explain – if you see the movie you will understand). It was also nice to see Jeffery Wright, Kyle Chandler, and Alona Tal in solid supporting roles.
Broken City is very uneven. I would not race to see it. I fully expect this movie to be completely forgotten about (if it has not already), but maybe develop a small cult following when released on DVD like many of Wahlberg’s other films. It might be worth a rental if you are in the mood for a quick, noir thriller.