When I went to the theater this Martin Luther King Day, I knew I wasn’t in for anything special. What I didn’t know is that I would end up enjoying the pile of shit that is Haunted House more than this Wahlberg/Crowe starring political thriller. To be fair, the only reason I hated Haunted House less was that it obviously didn’t even try, whereas Broken City tries really hard and fails even harder. Also, Haunted House at least had the decency to be about 18 minutes shorter. Horribly written, clumsily directed, appallingly acted and woefully miscast, Broken City represents the closest I’ve come to walking out of a movie theater in years.
In a city rife with injustice, ex-cop Billy Taggart seeks redemption and revenge after being double-crossed and then framed by its most powerful figure: Mayor Nicholas Hostetler.
The truly mind-boggling thing about Broken City is how many truly talented actors it features. You wouldn’t know it by their performances here that each of the three leads have either been nominated for or have won an Oscar in the past decade.
Wahlberg plays New York City cop Billy Taggert, who is forced into the private sector after killing an alleged murderer and rapist in the line of duty. Wahlberg is in absolute autopilot here, and while a lot of the blame for his character’s shortcomings come from the dialogue he’s given, he still feels like he’s just cashing in a paycheck. The one small consolation is that the circumstances surrounding his dismissal from the NYPD have some amount of light shed on it, but the movie fails to make those revelations fit into the plot in any meaningful way.
Crowe isn’t having a great few months on the acting front either. While I didn’t hate him in Les Miserables as much as some have, he is truly awful here. Between his distractingly bad New York accent and his distinct lack of the sort of menace that tends to help in a chief antagonist, it feels like the producers were desperate to cram Crowe into a part to which he distinctly didn’t belong.
Catherine Zeta Jones is also here, but that’s about all I can say about her. Her performance is as wooden as the coffee table below
me right now, and the fact that she’s proven herself to be a fully capable actress in the past suggests that the fault lies in the directing rather than in Jones’ ability to act. I also couldn’t help but feel like Barry Pepper didn’t fit into his role as the John Kerry-esque opponent to Hofstetler in the election, even though it’s obvious he gives more of an effort than any of his starring counterparts. He’s also revealed to be in a homosexual relationship with his campaign manager; a twist that comes out of the blue and only adds to the movie’s confusing political tones
My personal favorite was Billy’s girlfriend Natalie, who has no chemistry whatsoever with Billy and ends up just sort of fading off screen with no resolution at all. What was truly terrible about her character though is the arc that involves Billy finding out that the indie film she just starred in features a graphic, fully nude sex scene with her attractive male co-star. Not only does she not tell Billy about this, but she waits until the public premiere of the film for him to find out and then acts like he’s being the unreasonable one.
This is where the movie goes from mediocre to incomprehensible mess. The plot is confusing as hell, not because of complexity but because of poor explanation of what’s actually going on. Various political (class warfare, corruption) and social (gay rights, vigilante justice) messages are tossed about without any sort of real impact at all. Worst of all though is the dialogue. The writers tried so very hard to give the characters funny lines, quirky personalities and witty banter, but there is absolutely nothing funny or witty about any of it. It’s sort of like when you have a friend that keeps making bad jokes, but won’t stop because he doesn’t get the fact that he simply isn’t funny. I imagine a lot of the lines might have sounded good at a table read, but the director should have intervened when shooting the actual scenes and realizing how they sounded coming out of the actors’ mouths.
The Verdict: 3.0/10 Just Plain Bad
- Horrible dialogue that tries and fails to be funny
- Horribly confusing and scattered plot
- Acting that feels like everyone involved just gave up halfway through the production
- Hardly any action to distract from the issues listed above
Rotten Tomatoes: 30%
Dan the Man Movie Reviews: 5.5/10
The Code is Zeek: 2.5/5
Average: 4.5/10 – Sub-Par