Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Broken City Review

Broken City Review

It seems we are hitting a time when the crime thriller is running low on steam. Particularly crime thrillers involving high government corruption and cops who are above the law. This sub genre is quickly becoming more of the same. However, through the familiarity, one can still find enjoyment when they sit down to the movie.

"Broken City" which came out earlier this year, is that type of movie. It opens with Mark Wahlberg holding a smoking gun and a man lies dead in front of him, with a bullet hole in his forehead. We then skip a few days in time, and find out Wahlberg's character is on trial for murder. The case is dropped however, and Wahlberg goes free. This is all thanks to the governor of New York City (played by Russell Crowe) who personally made sure Wahlberg (who's character's name is Billy Taggart) was free.

Automatically, I think of such films like "Street Kings," "Training Day" and "Dark Blue." Movies about cops who know they are corrupt but find the willpower to overthrow the much more corrupt political leaders. Honestly, I wasn't far off. But what makes "Broken City" a little more special is that it tries something different from other movies we are familiar with.

Billy Taggart is no longer a cop after the trail, but becomes a private detective  He is still very close to the governor, so close that the governor hires him to investigate who the man is that is sleeping with his wife. The governor wants every clue and detail wiped under the rug before the start of the next week, which is election week. Of course, as one could probably guess, Taggart uncovers something much bigger in the process.

From that point one, the film has a "Chinatown" feel, but the reveals at the end of the film are not as shocking or surprising. If you have seen the movies I mentioned above, or other movies similar to them, you can pinpoint how this movie ends. What keeps the film afloat however, is the great acting by Wahlberg and Crowe. We have seen work from like this from these two before. Wahlberg is a take-no-crap badass who finds redemption and seizes it. While Crowe is so preposterously sleazy that it feels the part was written for him.

The rest of the cast ranges from okay to very good. Catherine Zeta-Jones shows up as The Governors wife. Honestly, I was pretty unimpressed by Zeta-Jones in this film. I am usually a big fan of her work, and I plan to check out "Side Effects" in the near future, but she was not good in this film. It felt like a lazy, one-dimensional performance. Almost seemed like she was imitating a paranoid, cheating suspect instead of acting out the part, rather disappointing  The rest of the cast does solid work. Jeffery Wright plays the Chief of Police and he was as perfect as ever. I am really looking forward to him joining the "Catching Fire" this November. Kyle Chandler has had a good couple years now and he pushes another great performance as a political rally supporter. Barry Pepper plays a Senator who is competing for the Governor's chair against Crowe's character, he turns out an outstanding performance too.

The drama the actors create makes the "Been There, Done That" story seem relevant. The film is directed to a gritty perfection by Allen Hughes. A filmmaker who has made other films with his brother, their filmography includes "The Book of Eli" and "Menace II Society." Hughes is used to getting great performances out of wonderful actors, and there is a moody atmosphere here that is electrifying. With actors this good and an atmosphere this awesome, it isn't hard to be swept away into the story, no matter how familiar it feels.The film has some realistic action beats peppered throughout its running time which makes the experience more fun overall.

A movie like "Broken City" is hard to grade. It walks the line of pass and fail so tightly that it is hard to find balance. The story is formulaic and familiar, but the actors (well most of the actors) come with their A-games, which helps the audience identify strongly with the characters. The direction is vital and precise. "Broken City" is a movie you may enjoy, if you can look past the cliches and the rehashes.


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