<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Allen Hughes. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, Kyle Chandler, Natalie Martinez, Alona Tal
Though this film hasn’t gotten the greatest of reviews, I thought Broken City was a nice attempt at doing the whole corrupt cops and system angle in a different way. There’s no pontificating, lot of grey areas and a not-so-happy ending.
Set in New York and starting off with a cop, Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg), killing a guy who raped and murdered a woman in project community of NY, you are quickly introduced to the city’s conniving mayor Nicolas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) and the police chief (Jeffrey Wright) who have evidence that the shooting was not entirely kosher. So even though the mayor thinks Taggart is a ‘hero’ he tells him his career is over but to ‘keep in touch’. Seven years later, Billy is Private Investigator who takes pictures of cheating spouses but forgets to get an advance from his clients, so he’s basically broke. But on the bright side he has a hot actor girlfriend (Natalie Martinez) who he’s tied to because of a past tragedy (you’ll find out when you watch the film).
Mayor Hostetler is up for re-election and his opponent Jack Valiant (love the name, played by Barry Pepper) and his campaign manager Paul Andrews (Kyle Chandler) have some real dirt on the incumbent mayor. At the same time the mayor thinks his wife is sleeping around, so he hires Billy Taggart to get the dirt on her. What he reveals sets up a chain of events that leads to a death, the mayor’s wife meeting with Billy, Billy losing his cool and his girlfriend, the now suddenly wealthy commissioner of police (Jeffrey Wright) wanting to get the mayor and some shady land development deals being unearthed.
Broken City isn’t really a thriller. It’s more of a drama. It has some clever dialogue: when Catherine Zeta-Jones’s character asks Taggart “Do you believe in love?” he replies “I believe in loving the person you’re with.” to which she retorts “ What are you, stupid or Catholic?” There’s also a lot of dialogue derogatory to gay people but then you realise its relevance a bit later in the plot.
While the twists aren’t phenomenal the story does have its moments of intensity. One with the debate between the candidates is particularly rousing. Russell Crowe plays his tough-as-nails mayor with a ruthlessness masked by charm extremely well. Almost makes you forget his terrible singing in Les Misérables!
At the end of the film, despite some contrary beliefs, justice is done but you suddenly realise that there will be no happy ending for our hero and that sort of makes this film stand apart from most others in the reality department. Which is what I liked about it. Go find out for yourself though.