Film Review: “Broken City”

Written by Film, Film Reviews

Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe square off in BROKEN CITY.

BROKEN CITY_0.fullIn Broken City, Mark Wahlberg stars as Billy Taggert, a disgraced ex-NYPD detective who now struggles to make ends meet as a private investigator. Fortunately, Taggert has a hot girlfriend (Natalie Martinez) to comfort him, and a cute secretary (Alona Tal) to keep him afloat. The mayor of New York (Russell Crowe) hires Taggert to trail his wife (Catherine Zeta Jones), whom he suspects is cheating on him with the campaign director of his rival in the upcoming election. Of course, the case isn’t as simple as it seems and pretty soon Taggert finds himself in hot water with the ex-police commissioner (Jeffrey Wright). Broken City is a film where nothing is as it seems and everyone has a little bit of dirt on them.

The film is essentially a B thriller, with some uninspired car chases and fist fights thrown in. It would be easy to dismiss this movie as just another dumb action film, except that it stars an exceptional cast of actors. Russell Crowe, as a corrupt mayor, turns in a dedicated performance; Catherine Zeta Jones plays his icey wife superbly; Barry Pepper adds another excellent performance to his resume; Kyle Chandler (one of 2012’s busiest character actor) has some great scenes; and Jeffrey Wright puts on a display of nuanced acting that is frustrating because it’s wasted on Broken City.

That brings us back to Wahlberg. The actor has always been able to raise his game when working with ‘A’ talent, just look at Three Kings, The Departed and The Fighter. But in Broken City, he’s flat in his delivery and seems to be channeling some kind of late 80s action hero. In fact, Broken City is a like a souped up version of a Steven Segal movie, with Mark Wahlberg taking on a role the Segal would have starred in back in his glory days.

As one of the film’s producers, I’m sure Wahlberg wanted Broken City to be as gritty and stylized as The Departed. But the script, written by newcomer Brian Tucker, is filled with clichés and awful dialogue. Allen Hughes, directing without his brother, Albert, doesn’t do much to lift the material above the script. He overuses the steadicam and shows none of the flare you might anticipate based on the interesting films he’s co-directed.

This review is twofold. It’s the first movie I’m reviewing through DHD, which is Digital High Definition video. This is the wave of the future, my friends. We are getting closer to a world in which physical product will not be essential to the viewing experience, especially if every digital presentation is the same quality of when I watched Broken City last weekend. On my 14 inch computer screen, with my over the ear headphones providing the optimum volume, my viewing experience of Broken City  was enjoyable (content aside). For fans clamoring to see this Mark Wahlberg/Russell Crowe crime thriller, the good news is that the DHD has been released weeks before the actual Blu-ray/DVD releases. You can download it anytime and begin streaming today.

I was resistant to reviewing new movies this way, thinking that I’d miss the special features provided by Blu-rays and DVDs. However, most of these DHD releases come with the same bonus features as the Blu-rays. The ideal way to watch a movie remains on a theater screen. As far as home video is concerned, DHD is a great alternative. The advantage of DHD is that you escape the clutter, with movies stored on a hard drive. This allows you to clear out that corner of your office or the cabinet under your TV for something else, like a plant.

If only Broken City were a film I wanted to return to over and over as a part of my movie collection.

For more information about Broken City on digital HD and other films, visit http://www.foxdigitalhd.com/brokencity/