When a movie starring Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe debuts in the January dumping ground, you know something must have gone horribly wrong. Indeed, Broken City is a big old waste of time, but sadly it’s not a hilariously misconceived failure that the shoddy release would suggest. It’s merely a boring, dull, and tiresome crime thriller. This isn’t a movie to invite vicious scorn to be screamed from the rooftops. It’s just a slice of half-baked mediocrity destined to disappear mere minutes after it’s release. I suppose the hush-hush January dump was merely to ensure the disappearing act could happen as quickly as possible. That’s a bummer for trash movie fans though as all signs (and no press screenings) pointed to a ludicrous disaster rather than dull semi-failure. They can’t all be Alex Cross, I suppose.
Co-producer Wahlberg stars as a leering PI down on his luck. He used to be an alcoholic renegade cop who got away with murder, but now he’s cleaned up his act and follows around cheating couples for cash after giving up the bottle for his pretty actress girlfriend (Natalie Martinez). That all changes once Russell Crowe’s slick mayor of New York hires Wahlberg to follow around his presumably cheating wife. Rather quickly, Wahlberg discovers there’s something more going on than extra marital hanky panky.
Crowe made a dirty business deal with some evil local real estate types (led by Griffin Dunne! Thank god he’s still alive and working) and he’s worried about that sensitive info slipping out to his squeaky clean perfect election opponent, Barry Pepper. Suddenly Wahlberg is in over his head with corruption. Blackmail is flying left and right, the local police commissioner is Jeffery Wright (and is therefore evil), and even the premier of his girlfriend’s “first indie film” (actual dialogue) proves to be a disaster. Boy,oh boy, good thing Wahlberg’s sober now and at least in control. Oh wait, he starts drinking. Uh-oh! Things are going to get crazy.
If it sounds like you’ve seen it all before, well that’s because you have. The general plot draws sacrilegious and backhanded comparisons to Chinatown as well as any number of crap political thrillers from the 90s. First time screenwriter Brian Tucker makes no attempt to deviate from the established formulas and even delivers some particularly awful dialogue gems (like when Crowe embarrassingly spits out “If men are dogs, then what the hell are women? Have you ever seen a bitch in heat?” No, I’m not kidding).
Wahlberg does what he normally does in a movie he can tell will be crap mid-shoot: he sleepwalks through by using only 2-3 stock facial expressions. Crowe attempts a New York accent that’s almost as bad as his singing voice, but otherwise seems un-invested (seriously, what happened to this guy? Is he only offered bad scripts now or has he genuinely lost interest in acting). Barry Pepper and Jeffery Wright are talented enough and have small enough parts not too embarrass themselves, but they also do very little and don’t make much of an impact. And Catherine Zeta Jones is in it as Crowe’s potentially cheating wife, for whatever that’s worth. The whole dull journey comes supervised by Allen Hughes, directing for the first time without his twin brother Albert and based on the results, I hope they reunite soon.
So…yeah, Broken City exists. It’s a movie that will very soon be available through streaming and on spinning discs, though hopefully no one will pay much attention. Truthfully, it’s not that bad. Everyone involved has made far worse movies than this before (except for the debuting screenwriter, so that’s something to shoot for). It’s just a resounding disappointed that will make you sad for everyone involved that they wasted their time on something so thoroughly forgettable. On the plus side, I saw the film a few short hours ago and it’s already about as hazy in my mind as a bagel I ate in 8th grade. That’ll be true for everyone else whether you see the movie or not, so the famous faces needn’t worry about their reputations being scarred. At least they all got paid. That’s important.