Broken City had so much potential with a stellar cast and an interesting storyline, unfortunately it never really came together. The plot itself was convoluted and the performances kind of bland although slightly entertaining, leading to an all around forgettable flick. I’m not sure what happened, if it was with the script or while filming, but this should’ve been so much better.
Genre(s): Drama, Suspense/Thriller
Fox | R – 109 min. – $39.99 | April 30, 2013
Directed by: Allen Hughes
Writer(s): Brian Tucker (written by)
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, Alona Tal, Natalie Martinez, Kyle Chandler
Theatrical Release Date: January 18, 2013
Features: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, DVD Copy, Digital Copy, UltraViolet
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Disc Size: 39.7 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 2.5/5
The political thriller Broken City languished in development hell for years until Mark Wahlberg came aboard as producer, raising the funds, with Allen Hughes helming, marking his first movie away from his brother. Unfortunately there might’ve been a reason the Brian Tucker screenplay sat on a shelf as it was in desperate need of rewrites. One other problem is the film on the whole is just utterly bland.
Broken City opens in 2005 where NYPD Detective Billy Taggart (MARK WAHLBERG) was arrested and charged with the murder of a young black man despite claiming self defense. Meanwhile, Taggart’s friend, Captain Carl Fairbanks (JEFFREY WRIGHT), informs New York City Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (RUSSELL CROWE) that some incriminating evidence has come to his possession and asks the mayor to help make it go away, to which he does. As such, the shooting was ruled as self defense and Taggart walks free. However, due to the negative publicity, Taggart is fired with the promise by Hostetler that some day he would repay him.
Fast forward seven years later and Taggart is now working as a private investigator, has a cute secretary (ALONA TAL), and lives with his girlfriend, Natalie (NATALIE MARTINEZ), and discover her personal connection with the shooting: the man whom Taggart killed had been acquitted of raping and murdering Natalie’s sister. Taggart receives a call from the mayor’s office and goes in to discover Hostetler, facing a reelection challenge from Congressman Jack Valliant (BARRY PEPPER). Hostetler believes his wife, Cathleen (CATHERINE ZETA-JONES), is cheating on him and offers Taggart $50k, half up front, to discover who the man is.
Needing the money, Taggart accepts and begins following the mayor’s wife and after some routine First Lady events, he finds her meeting a man later to be known as Paul Andrews (KYLE CHANDLER) who happens to be… the campaign manager of Hostetler’s political rival! At first Taggart believes the two are having an affair but realizes something else is going on, especially after giving the pictures to Hostetler and soon afterwards Paul Andrews lies dead on the street, shot twice.
Now with blood on his hands, Taggart sets off to take down the mayor receiving help from the mayor’s wife who had wanted to get a divorce and then cluing Taggart in that she and Andrews were good friends and was helping her dig dirt to hold over her husband. The whole scandal involves a $4 Billion deal for a New York City neighborhood to which the mayor was neck deep in and would benefit receiving a hefty stake in.
Broken City is the kind of movie that’s frustrating. First, you have a very talented director in Allen Hughes who, with his brother, had directed Menace II Society, From Hell and The Book of Eli, the latter of which is under-appreciated. With this solo outing debut, and with the help of DP Ben Seresin’s (Best Laid Plans, Unstoppable) lens, the movie looks beautiful with part glitz/glamour and part grit, trying to present modern day film noir. And actually the movie would’ve benefited from taking place in the 1930s or 40s rather than modern times. The screenplay by Brian Tucker is his first go around and was actually on the “Black List”, a grouping of scripts that received attention from Hollywood producers. Although I did like the layers with the story, the dialogue was one cliché after another.
The other frustrating matter with the movie is the cast. While I’ve never been the biggest Mark Wahlberg fan, I did think he was fantastic in The Departed, but you add in Academy Award winners Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones, not to mention the oft underutilized Jeffrey Wright, and one wonders what script they read, jumped on board script unseen or Hughes and Wahlberg did one hell of a pitch job.
It’s a shame Broken City wasn’t better. The ideas in the story were good, the direction from Hughes was well done and the casting was stellar, but putting it together, it never adds up or reaches its potential. Even so, although the filmmakers felt they had something with more depth, I suppose you could approach this as a time waster because there are scenes that will hold your attention and seeing some of the performances, even if mailed in, the cast at least seemed to have a good time.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
This release comes with a glossy slip cover. Inside are a DVD/Digital Copy combo disc and a redemption code for the UltraViolet Digital Copy version.
Deleted Scenes (8:35; HD) – There are six scenes, including an alternate ending, which were removed or cut down. There’s nothing of significance here but some extra character scenes but nothing that furthered the story, although there is a resolution with the Billy/Natalie relationship at least. The alternate ending isn’t anything special, just an extra moment with Barry Pepper’s character.
Putting it Together (34:59; HD) is a 7-part documentary chronicling the beginnings of the project through filming and release. It’s an extensive look at some behind-the-scenes footage intermixed with your usual cast and crew interviews as they explain the plot or characters.
Previews – The East, A Good Day to Die Hard
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Broken City arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a decent 1080p high-definition transfer. The film offers some good detail level showing off each nuance of the characters and objects. The black levels are also pretty impressive with nice contrast during both day and nighttime scenes. Although it’s not the best HD transfer I’ve come across, and the lack of film grain doesn’t lend itself to pop off the screen as much, the video is solid and looks good even at home.
AUDIO – 4.0/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track surprisingly was lacking. Although dialogue levels were nice and loud coming primarily from the center speaker, the other elements from the lone car chase to even the occasional gunshot or shattering glass were weak. Ambient noises do come across fairly well through the rear channels, however, so it’s a fine lossless track albeit not quite as dynamic as I had expected from a new release.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, Broken City had so much potential with a stellar cast and an interesting storyline, unfortunately it never really came together. The plot itself was convoluted and the performances kind of bland although slightly entertaining, leading to an all around forgettable flick. I’m not sure what happened, if it was with the script or while filming, but this should’ve been so much better. The Blu-ray itself has solid video/audio transfers and the 35-minute long making-of documentary is well worth watching just to see the process.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.