Broken City, a political, recession-themed thriller, directed by Allen Hughes and starring Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones, teases the audience with a promising start as we are instantly introduced to the anti-hero and the story hits the ground running with an engaging opening scene. Unfortunately after the initial momentum, the film loses pace as the story becomes obvious and safe, with plot twists offering no surprise to any viewer with an at least average intellect. Hughes’ direction and the cinematography are pleasing on the eye however they both mimic the cautious and safe overture of the narrative itself.
The cast try hard to brighten up proceedings; Mark Wahlberg as Billy Taggart and Russell Crowe as the slimy and charming Mayor Hostetler both manage to pitch characters with pleasant enough results however neither of them strain any acting muscles here. Crowe and Wahlberg are too comfortable, resulting in average performances. A firmer directorial hand was needed to draw out the expected hefty performances from the leads. Wahlberg alone has proven more capable in recent years with films such as The Departed, The Fighter and even the highly enjoyable, but arguably less cerebral, Contraband- all of which have showcased his range and ability, neither of which are seen here.
It would be unfair to lay the blame solely at the feet of Hughes and the cast here however. The script is marginally above average and fails to ever entice or bring originality to an already over worked topic. Broken City never comes close to the heights reached by it’s TV counterparts; Homeland alone could teach this film a thing or two about smart, political film making. It could also teach Zeta-Jones a thing or too about strong women on film. Her phony, hammy performance is a real low in a movie with not a lot else to enjoy but some, at least, sincere acting from it’s cast.
Not abhorrent just not exciting, thrilling or engaging which is a bit of a problem when you’re trying to make an exciting, engaging, thriller. Sorry Broken City, must try harder…