johnlink ranks BROKEN CITY (2013)

It is often said that audiences best be leery of a large cast thriller. Often the cast is there to overshadow a mediocre story. So a political thriller starring Russell Crowe, Mark Wahlberg, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, Kyle Chandler, and Griffin Dunne? Well that is not TOO bright a cast to be good, right?


I watched BROKEN CITY (2013) on 1.22.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

Detective Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) has done a bad thing. He sought justice in a questionable manner and narrowly escaped a trial. He does, however, lose his job much to the chagrin on his Chief (Jeffrey Wright) and the Mayor of New York City (Russell Crowe).

We fast forward seven years and Taggart is now a private investigator. The Mayor calls him in under the guise that he suspects his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) of cheating on him during a critical moment in the campaign. Taggart agrees to follow her.  A murder results, and the former detective wisely surmises that this wasn’t about just a cheating wife. Chests are pumped, angry eyes are made, threats are doled out like candy on Halloween.

This is a movie which is about figuring out who is on your side and who isn’t. The Chief is now  Commisioner and he seems to want to bring down the Mayor. The wife doesn’t seem to like anybody. The Mayor sure seems like a nice guy. Former cops show up here and there and are varying degrees of suspicious.

The problem with the script, it turns out, is that there really isn’t much to the depth of the deception. It really goes one layer deep, the layer we first suspect, and then goes no further. This is a movie which doesn’t fit a genre. It isn’t political enough to be a political thriller (despite an oddly timed debate scene). It’s moments of suspense are mostly muted save for one bullet in the windshield moment which works. It has a little too much Mark Wahlberg to be a deep dramatic picture (nothing against Wahlberg, who I’ve always liked, that just isn’t his forte).

The acting isn’t great Zeta-Jones has a line reading or two which feels so disjointed as to make it hard to judge whether to blame her or the dialogue. Crowe goes through the motions here, looking mostly uninspired. This role, for him, is perhaps the role with the least depth in a long time. Perhaps the best performance comes from Taggart’s girlfriend Natalie (Natalie Martinez, of recent Under the Dome fame), but her character is written out in a way which makes her seem bi-polar, Taggart unlikable, and which never finds a resolution.

This also leads Taggart back into alcoholism, a topic which is treated with shocking indifference. Taggart gets absolutley hammered, drinking at least a bottle of whiskey because of the break up, wanders the city for a few minutes, gets a call about a murder, and shows up suddenly sobered up. He drinks the rest of the movie and everyone treats it as if he had finally gotten the monkey (in this case, a girlfriend who had helped him get sober) off his back. It’s odd.

BROKEN CITY turns out to be a bland thriller with enough character and heart to be worth seeing once, but not enough to make it worth ever seeing again. It is, as my wife pointed out, in the vain of so many forgettable 90s thrillers which was happy to pump out a couple of big names, a few character actors, give you one twist, and call it a day. Those movies worked better before the increased sophistication of television productions made them irrelevant. BROKEN CITY is not much more than an episode of Law & Order or CSI or Major Crimes.That doesn’t make it bad, that doesn’t make it unwatchable. It merely makes it an easily digested and forgettable bit of entertainment.





~ by johnlink00 on January 23, 2014.

6 Responses to “johnlink ranks BROKEN CITY (2013)”

  1. Good review.

    After reading your tepid praise, I’m in no hurry.

  2. Good review John. It’s not great or anything, but given the cast and crew, it’s a fine watch. However, drunken Marky Mark may be the highlight for me with this movie.

    • Yep. There’s always a place for a well-cast suspense movie. I’d probably just never find a reason to watch it again.
      Drunken Marky Mark hitting the hipster actor is probably the highlight.

  3. I watched this!! And totally forgot I had till I read your review…

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