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The Independent Critic

Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Barry Pepper, Catherine Zeta Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Kyle Chandler
Allen Hughes
Brian Tucker
Rated R
109 Mins.
20th Century Fox

 "Broken City" Belongs in January 
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I've always wondered how a filmmaker feels when they find out from a studio that their film is going to be released in January. Are they simply happy to have a film getting major distribution? Or is their even the slightest questioning of "January? The dumping ground of Hollywood? MY film?"

Broken City is the first film directed by Allen Hughes without his brother Albert, with whom he has made six films that have, for the most part, been generally respected and made most of Hollywood eagerly anticipate the next Hughes Brothers film. As often happens in life, however, the two brothers seem to be pursuing different directions artistically and this becomes the first solo project from either of the two brothers.


Yep, Broken City is a January film. It's a modestly interesting crime thriller with a top notch cast and plenty of action that dissatisfies mostly because screenwriter Brian Tucker's far too busy and convoluted script that uses a lot of words but actually says very little. Considering the cast involved, Broken City had the makings of a decent crime thriller. While it never completely collapses, the whole of Broken City isn't nearly as interesting as its parts.

Mark Wahlberg plays Taggart, a New York City cop who's forced into retirement after being acquitted during an "excessive force" case that grabbed too many headlines. It's now a few years later, Taggart heads up an insolvent detective agency when he's contacted by Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe). Hostetler suspects his wife (Catherine Zeta Jones) of cheating, and Taggart is hired to find out the truth. What he finds out, however, is far more than expected and jeopardizes Hostetler's mayoral campaign against a popular liberal (Barry Pepper) who has already struck the public's fancy.

The story that follows isn't particularly surprising, with Taggart uncovering a liaison that's so incredibly obvious that it's also quite obviously a set-up for something else dastardly that's going to follow it.


Before long, everything that Taggart has uncovered gets even more complicated when the main suspect winds up dead and Taggart gets, surprise!, implicated in all of it.

Despite Tucker's convoluted script and the complete lunacy that begins to take hold as the film winds down, Broken City is still a somewhat watchable film because this type of angsty tough guy is what Wahlberg does really well and, well, Russell Crowe's not singing.

That's a plus.

Unfortunately, Broken City also throws in sub-plots that are unnecessary including Taggart's relationship with an indie actress (Natalie Martinez) and threads involving the ultra-corrupt police commissioner (Jeffrey Wright) that feel pointless and excessive for the film.

Production quality is generally fine, especially an original score from Atticus Ross, who worked with Trent Reznor on the Oscar-winning The Social Network score and the Americanized The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

With a couple of other genuinely entertaining options opening this weekend, you'd likely end up much happier by checking out either Mama or Schwarzenegger's return to leading roles, The Last Stand.

The Broken City?
It's more like a broken record.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic