It’s been seven years since Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) was forced to leave the New York City Police Department. Stripped of his badge for killing a known but un-convicted rapist, we find Taggart working as a low-rent private eye, forced to take on adultery cases and take beatings all en route to making ends meet.
Taggart’s misfortunes take a turn for the better though when the incumbent Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) offers him $50,000 to tag his wife, who he suspects is having an adulterous affair. When the case suddenly results in the murder of the suspected lover, Taggart is cast into a conspiracy far outweighing his cheating wife brief and quickly finds himself the center of an intrigue, involving power, urban development, corruption, and all of the politics heads of the city.
If anything about Broken City rings a bell, it’s because you’ve probably seen the film countless times before. Billed as a neo-noir, the film seems homage to the novels of Chandler and Hammett, while at times the plot treads warily close to Polanski’s Chinatown. There’s not much groundbreaking going on in Broken City, but, to be fair, there is a quality to this run-of-the-mill genre picture that keeps you engaged through to its final credits. In part, this can boiled down to its director, Allen Hughes, and the film’s star-studded supporting cast.
Taggart is somewhat refreshing, as his unaware, hit first/ask later detective methods are a welcome distraction from the overload of CSI and forensic heroes we are subjected to on the small screen. Leading the pack though is Crowe, whose comb-over and almost orange makeup job makes him seem at times almost comical, but the acting heavyweight brings his signature intensity to the sinister mayor that few other actors could match. Both Barry Pepper and Catherine Zeta-Jones turn in good efforts as Hostetler’s opposing candidate and wife, respectively, as do Alona Tal as Taggart’s assistant and the always perfectly articulated Jeffrey Wright as the Police Commissioner. Wahlberg’s Taggart comes across as little more than a facsimile of the private eyes from yesteryear, yet the unassuming, almost naïve way the actor plays.
As a director, Allen Hughes has a knack for shooting the city landscape. His films Dead Presidents and Menace to Society are quintessential urban pictures and the filmmaker has carried his ability to bring the mortar and brick of a city to life throughout his career. While to plot of Broken City is well trodden, the backdrop is seemingly tangible. Hughes’ use of music and distinctive camera work are standouts in the film and bring a degree of realism to the story. Unfortunately though, even with an ‘A’ list cast and a more than competent director, Broken City is little more than a ‘B’ picture.
Broken City is in Australian cinemas from 7 March through Hoyts Distribution.