Broken City (15)
Dir: Allen Hughes
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With: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe
Runtime: 109 minutes
IF you had to choose two actors suited to a beefy local politics and crime thriller, chances are Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe would be the first names out of the tombola of toughness. But as if to prove films require a little more than big names above the title, along comes Allen Hughes's picture, a film that is not so much broken by a lacklustre script as badly dented.
Wahlberg plays Billy Taggart, a good cop in a bad town. When placed under pressure during a night shift, Taggart makes a decision that changes his future. Years later, the city's mayor, played by Russell Crowe, remembers the plucky cop and asks him to take on a new assignment. The mayor suspects his wife (an impressive Catherine Zeta-Jones) of being unfaithful and wants the reliable Taggart to investigate. With election day approaching, the pressure is on again to get results.
So begins a twisty tale of electioneering days and domineering ways as Taggart tries to find out what's going on. On several occasions, Hughes places too much responsibility on his stars to carry the film on their own, believing that if he simply puts them in a scene together the actorly sparks will fly. This doesn't work, however, unless they also have something novel to say.
In Broken City, neither the overcomplicated plot nor the overwritten dialogue grips. At other times, there seems barely any effort being made at all, as when Zeta-Jones makes a speech about human rights below a huge sign reading "Human Rights Campaign". A little imagination, people, please. But that's Broken City, a film that takes a sledgehammer to subtlety.