'Broken City': Mark Wahlberg's latest crime thriller

In "Broken City," corrupt New York politician Russell Crowe (left) hires private investigator Mark Wahlberg (right).
In "Broken City," corrupt New York politician Russell Crowe (left) hires private investigator Mark Wahlberg (right).
Posted: January 18, 2013

THE PULPY "Broken City" stars Mark Wahlberg as an ex-cop-turned-private-eye caught up in the power politics of a New York City mayor's race.

He plays Billy Taggart, who makes a meager living taking pictures of cheating spouses for divorce proceedings, though he spends most of his time trying to collect from deadbeat clients.

So, he's naturally eager when the incumbent mayor (Russell Crowe) offers him $50,000 to produce incriminating photos of his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and the man she's sneaking off to see.

A little too eager - anyone who correctly places "Broken City" into its proper neo-noir slot will recognize poor Billy as an expendable middleman whose $50k payday is probably just enough to buy him a one-way ticket to Palookaville.

But it's not a bad ride, made smooth by an ace cast. Smoky-voiced Zeta-Jones was born to play noir. Crowe does a New York mayor with a Boston accent, but has the right gravitas. The cast is top-notch: Jeffrey Wright as a Machiavellian police chief, Kyle Chandler as a political operative, Barry Pepper as the challenging candidate.

It's always nice to be surprised in a movie, and new face Alona Tal makes a big impression here as Taggert's wisecracking assistant. She's shows some of the spunk and wit of Tea Leoni.

The script has some choice lines and spirited tough guy dialogue, but the story line has obvious weaknesses. Characters behave inconsistently, and the plot manages to be somehow both predictable and illogical - the drama surrounding one man's possible involvement in a long-ago murder, for instance, is undercut by his casual willingness to kill anew.

Still, director Allen Hughes gives the movie a nice, nocturnal, moody sheen. And there's more good news: Crowe doesn't sing.


Blog: philly.com/KeepItReel

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