“Broken City” Review
By Victoria Alexander, Film Critic
Las Vegas Informer
New Yorkers would never elect a man for mayor who wears bangs.
New York City police officer Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) shoots a man on the street. Thing is, the guy is a rapist-murderer, who was let go on a technicality. Though Taggart’s explanation is hard to swallow, a judge dismisses the charges against him. Politically savvy Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) has intervened and he lets Billy know that Police Commissioner Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) has brought him further evidence strongly showing his guilt that was withheld from the court. Hostetler will bury the evidence but Billy has to quit the police force.
Hostetler then has his Don Corleone moment: “Someday, and that day may never come, I will call upon you to do a service for me.”
Well, that day has come for Billy. Its seven years later. Billy is living in Brooklyn married to his long-time girlfriend, an aspiring actress Natalie (Natalie Martinez) and has a failing business as a private detective with a secretary, Katy (Alona Tal) who has a huge girl-crush on him.
Hostetler is up for re-election (New York City mayors serve a four year term and can be elected for three consecutive terms.) This time, however, Hostetler has some competition and the race is too damn close. At the heart of the matter is Hostetler’s interest in a housing project. A powerful building corporation wants to level it and build high-risers. Hostetler’s opponent, an appropriately named good-guy Jack Valient (Barry Pepper) is trying to make it the primary issue of the campaign.
Manhattan is prime real estate due to its proximity to jobs, transportation and prestige. No Wall Street young professionals want to live in the outer boroughs. And with gentrification of Harlem complete and it is impossible to live in Manhattan, Brooklyn has undergone a gentrification with wealthy, professional white homeowners spending outrageous sums on long-neglected, black-owned brownstones. This is changing the face of Brooklyn.
Hostetler’s campaign statement is that the residents of Manhattan’s public housing project have nothing to fear. He will not sell off the land.
Hostetler tells Billy he wants him to find out who his wife Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is having an affair with. He will pay Billy $50,000. This is a huge sum for Billy and can lift him out of his financial ruin. He can pay Katy a salary! He takes the down-payment of $25,000. Shadowing Cathleen, he takes photos of a liaison in Southampton. It’s Valient’s top campaign advisor Paul Andrews (Kyle Chandler).
Anything more would be a “spoiler”. I really like Mark Walhberg. He was fantastic in everything he’s done post “THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE” (2002). He was a stand-out in “THE DEPARTED” (and there were some heavy hitters in that film), “THE OTHER GUYS,” “CONTRABAND” and especially “TED.” I demand “TED 2.”
Crowe is the problem. While he has charm and always plays roles of authority, he’s just doing a job here. There is no investment in the film. With his reputation of being difficult on the set, did the director, Allen Hughes, just let him come in and say whatever lines he wanted?
The script by Brian Tucker is shallow in places and rather slim in logic. I don’t know if it was the theater or the soundtrack but some of the dialogue was hard to hear – and not just by me. If you are doing a thriller or crime story, the audience must be able to hear even cast-off dialogue that may be a clue to solving the mystery. With exposition a verboten task of the main actors, we need to hear from others in the movie.
Victoria Alexander is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org/ and the Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/. Victoria’s weekly column, “The Devil’s Hammer,” is posted every Monday. http://www.fromthebalcony.com/editorials.php.
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