‘Broken City’ is adequately entertaining
Published: Monday, January 28, 2013
Updated: Monday, January 28, 2013 21:01
Film production contains two roads, ambition and competence. It’s often best to find a delicate line between the two, as sticking to one can lead to pictures that are overdone and pretentious on one end, and stale on the other. “Broken City” sticks entirely the second road, but handles itself smartly enough to create a polished final product that is if nothing else, very entertaining.
“Broken City” stars the always reliable Mark Wahlberg as Billy Taggart, a former New York cop turned private investigator following a murder scandal. He takes a job for the mayor (Russell Crowe) to follow his wife whom he believes is having an affair. This pulls Taggart into a political conspiracy involving a rival mayoral candidate (Barry Pepper) and the deconstruction of a neighborhood to which Taggart has ties. It all escalates when an important figure turns up dead. The plot moves at a rigorous pace and takes a lot of twists and turns to keep the conflict exciting. All the characters receive proper development and are interesting enough to each carry their own arc. The sole exception is Natalie Martinez as Taggart’s girlfriend; but the film intelligently ends her story at the midway point. One thing I appreciated was how “Broken City” roots itself in drama and tells its story through dialogue and investigations rather than unnecessary action scenes. There’s a quick car chase and a couple small fights which manage to entertain without breaking the flow.
If you’re big into neo-noir (or you just watch a lot of “Law & Order”), you’ll probably be able to map out the entire plot come the second act, but even without surprising you, the screenplay makes you care about the people involved and does a good job of mixing the worlds of crime and politics. The one annoying aspect I found was that the characters would tend to hastily mumble important details, which prevented me from getting a complete grasp of the story at times.
For a low budget January release, “Broken City” features quite a few big stars, all giving solid performances. Crowe completely pulls off the political figure who is an obvious slime ball yet it’s feasible to see him winning several elections. Pepper surprises as the vulnerable liberal opponent and Jeffrey Wright gives possibly his best performance as a tough, no-nonsense police chief.
There isn’t a whole lot to be said about “Broken City.” It’s not the type of film one will be remembering months from now, but it’s right at home in the dog days of January and February, and shines when compared most of the other films its competing against. There’s a lot to enjoy about it, and very little reason to dislike it.