Broken City feels like a two hour premiere of a TV show networks love to plaster all over the brand new fall schedule, full of slick TV visuals, promising all kinds of political intrigue, scandals, backstabbing and a bunch of good looking people. The teaser for the show, produced for three times the budget of a regular pilot opens with the low-pitched ominous narration, “He was hired to do a simple job! But he had no idea how deep the rabbit hole went!”
January is known as the box-office wasteland when studios release films they either don’t care about, or they are embarrassed by, since January films are not eligible for that year’s Oscars (And they will most likely be forgotten by next year’s awards) and the audience is already fatigued by the awards season onslaught.
When you see A-list talent like Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg behind what looks like big budget studio fare and the release date turns out to be January, it’s almost never a good sign. The only time this prediction proved false was with Silence of The Lambs, but that was twenty years ago.
After sitting through Broken City, it’s highly understandable why it was dumped in January. What’s harder to understand is why Crowe and Wahlberg decided to sign on to such a run-of-the-mill, clichéd thriller without a single original scene during its 110-minute running time. To be fair, it is executed with strict professional competence all the way, which is the least you can expect from a big studio project such as this.
Mark Wahlberg delivers his usual intense swagger as ex-cop, current-private-investigator Billy Taggart, hired to follow the wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) of the corrupt mayor of New York City (Russell Crowe, doing his best Guiliani with John Boehner’s orange tan) on what looks like a routine infidelity investigation. But of course before we can even think the word “predictable”, many seedy individuals tell him “This thing goes deeper than you can possibly imagine.”
If you have seen any similar TV shows or movies that starts off this way, you can figure out where it goes from here. Our protagonist with a haunting past realizes that he’s been screwed all along and does he decide to do the right thing and bring down those who are responsible? What do you think?
Director Allen Hughes, half of the brother directing team who brought us the classic Menace II Society, tries to inject this bland material with as much excitement and dramatic heft as possible. In order to keep things moving, he even gets Wahlberg to beat the crap out of a bunch of characters that don’t even matter. When even the obligatory car chase scene is dull and lifeless, it’s time to throw in the towel.
If you haven’t caught up to some of the wonderful awards season fare yet, give those a shot and pass on Broken City.