BROKEN CITY – TWO STARS
By Alex Dymoke
“Those guys take that metrosexual crap way too far!” shouts detective Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) about his girlfriend’s thespy
friends. The line tells you everything you need to know about Broken City. Taggart finds it difficult expressing emotion. So does Brian
Tucker, the screenwriter.
The characters are given ugly backstories to make up for the lack of emotional development: Taggart is a former NYPD officer who left the force after murdering his girlfriend's sister's rapist. Now he works as a private investigator, creeping around after the wives of jealous husbands, taking pictures and reporting back. Through a twist of fate that isn't worth explaining, corrupt Mayor of New York City Nicholas Hostetler (payed by Russell Crowe, the first New York Mayor with an Australian accent) enlists him to investigate his human rights campaigner wife (Catherine Zeta Jones).
We know that Catherine Zeta Jones is a human rights campaigner because at one point she appears at a rally in front of a big banner with the words “Human Rights Campaign” on it. Would there ever be a human rights campaign that is literally called “Human Rights Campaign”? That's the kind of lumpen stupidity that infects this film.
Broken City relies on stupidity for it to work. Taggart's thuggish anti-intellectualism means that he fails to notice important developments in the story. This doesn't make for an enjoyable cinema-going experience; having to follow around Wahlberg while he punches things, threatens people and struggles to figure out what you as an audience member figured out ten minutes ago.
Russell Crowe, on the other hand, is excellent. He seems to relish being the best thing in a bad movie. It's as if the pressure is off
and he can just indulge in an absurdly over the top performance. The corrupt politician pouring out tumblers of scotch in an oak-panelled office is as hackneyed as it gets; Crowe luxuriates in the cliché, delivering lines like “I own you” with a menacing enthusiasm that is almost camp.
Unfortunately his performance is not enough to save this movie: Broken City is beyond repair.