Review: Broken City


Broken City

Many modern filmmakers attempt to recreate the atmosphere and tone of film noir. Some succeed and many more fail. Allen Hughes' first solo effort Broken City is a middle-of-the-road noir. Rough dialogue and an obvious set of twists make for an overlong trip into familiar territory.

Broken City begins with a city in turmoil. Officer Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) is on trial for shooting a perpetrator who was recently released on a technicality for raping a young girl. After being exonerated by the court officer, Taggart is summoned to appear before Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) and Commissioner Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright). These two men have come into possession of evidence that would incriminate Taggart in the shooting. They soon convince Taggart to resign from the police force.

We flash forward seven years. Taggart is now working as a private investigator with a cash-flow problem. Conveniently, Mayor Hostetler summons him to his office with a job of his own: the investigation of his wife Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones). As can be expected in noir style films, things do not go as planned. The rest of the movie is spent uncovering the various subterfuges, turns and twists common to these types of films.

Broken City is a decent but not great representation of modern film noir. Most noir films have some type of twist to their stories and it is tricky to keep the audience engaged in the story. This is where the movie suffers. The twist is obvious early on and it takes forever to reach a conclusion. Another issue with the film is a number of poor script choices. Characters provide obvious expositions that tell obvious things to the audience. At one point the mayor's wife Cathleen tells Taggart that he is essentially nothing but a "cheap dime-store dick." Duh ... we already knew that, thanks for stating the obvious.

This film is the first solo effort from director Allen Hughes, better known as one of the Hughes brothers (along with Albert), a filmmaking force responsible for creating some of cinema's truly great films. These films include Menace To Society, Dead Presidents and most recently The Book of Eli. You can definitely feel Hughes is searching for his own singular voice in this film. It's just too bad the voice is not a bit stronger.

Broken City is an average film that suffers from choppy dialogue and what feels like an overly long run time. If you feel up to watching good noir, you may be better served with Chinatown or The Maltese Falcon from your local video store or streaming service.

Broken City with Kyle Chandler

Austin connection: Kyle Chandler (pictured above on right) makes an appearance as campaign director Paul Andrews. He has arguably the best performance in the movie.