Broken City is a broken movie. Sorry, it had to be said. But even an all-star cast can’t fix this noirish clunker. I always wonder about movies released in January. If they were any good, the studio would release them in December in time for award nominations. January is a dumping ground for the studios’ leftover junk, and that’s why Broken City is out now.
Mark Wahlberg stars as former NYPD detective Billy Taggart. Seven years ago, the mayor — played by Russell Crowe — saved him from big trouble by burying some crucial evidence from a shooting. Now the mayor is in the midst of a close re-election campaign and he’s calling in the favor. He hires Taggart, who’s now a down on his luck P.I., to find out who his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is cheating with — or so he says. Nothing is as it seems, of course. The mayor is obviously up to something nefarious. His wife is cheating but not with who it looks like. His political opponent (Barry Pepper) and his campaign manager (Kyle Chandler) are looking for the evidence to expose the mayor as a liar and a cheat but have something to hide themselves. Even the police chief (Jeffrey Wright), who also wants to take the mayor down, has a secret to keep. It’s a whole bunch of political intrigue, scheming and backstabbing to unravel. The problem is, the unraveling is not very engaging or entertaining.
There’s almost too much detail, too much backstory on too many characters and none of it is all that surprising. Plus, the dialogue is often just, well, bad. And if you’re going to make a movie about New York City, please make sure you know how it works. As a New Yorker — one of the things that really irritated me in the movie was Kyle Chandler’s character buying a ticket on the Long Island Railroad at Grand Central. Everyone knows the LIRR runs out of Penn Station. Nitpicky, yes, but the details matter. And I won’t even bring up Crowe’s New York accent.
Broken City will probably come and go quickly at the theaters. No need to rush out to see it. Wait for it to hit basic cable in a few years if you’re a Mark Wahlberg fan and you think you need to see it. For now you’re better off renting Ted and getting your Wahlberg fix that way.