Movie Review: “Broken City” – A Movie Barely Held Together

Written by Spencer Sterritt January 21, 2013

broken-city3“Broken City” is decent. That’s really the only way to sum it up. Dumped unassumingly at the beginning of the year, I imagine a lot of people will skip over this boilerplate political thriller because it looks tired and dated, but there’s certainly some polish to this flick. I know that’s not within a mile of even kinda-sorta praise, but it’s better than nothing.

“Broken City” concerns itself with New York, perhaps one of the most broken cities in the world. Russell Crowe as Mayor Hostetler is up to no good; and Mark Wahlberg is Billy Taggart, an ex-cop now PI who gets double-crossed and vows to bring him down. From there it follows a lot of familiar tropes, and ends in the way that pretty much everyone expects.

Put Some Putty in Those Cracks

In that first half hour though, and then at sporadic times until the halfway mark, “Broken City” does some subtle and very sneaky character development. None of it pays off, but it is certainly interesting to see. “Broken City” ties both Hostetler and Taggart together by making them pricks, each of them throwing disparaging remarks about blacks, women and homosexuals. They’re both stereotypical Irish-Catholic types who don’t like anything that’s not manly in someway.

Broken City, broken Irish-Catholic stereotypes


This attitude especially gets Taggart in trouble (he chokes out a homosexual film director) and the film is pretty damn sly when showing the consequences of being such a dick. Personal relationships go down the tube because of their manly assholishness, and “Broken City” does everything it can to show the flaws of guys like that. Taggart at one point makes fun of metrosexuals, saying it freaks him out when they break out their compacts and do their makeup. He has no idea of anything outside of his ignorant, hyper straight and hyper masculine view of the world, and I’m glad the movie takes lengths to show that as a fault. It’s refreshing to see after so many movies like “Gangster Squad” that reinforce a very sexist idea of what being a man is.

No Sneaky Director Can Fix a Broken Movie

I give “Broken City” credit for rightfully criticizing Taggart’s behaviour, but everything else in the film is mediocre. The political conspiracy going on behind the scenes are a little more complex than normal, but are still easy to figure out. All that the writers did was throw in one or two more links on the chain leading Taggart to the truth, and you still get to the exact same spot that you expected.

It’s the sort of movie where if a character is introduced off the cuff for no real reason, you know he’s going to show up again in a half hour with something important. And if there’s an ex-cop who is now a private security guard who randomly gets introduced, it’s fair to assume that he’s going to show up with a gun and get in a fight with Taggart at some point.

And then he's going to make this face.

And then he’s going to make this face.

It’s a shame the script is so predictable because the cast is really solid. Both Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe have been on top of their games recently, and if they were given some meatier scenes together I think the screen may have exploded in actor-ly awesomeness.

There are a few points when the prestige of the actors really blew me away, and that’s because Barry Pepper and Kyle Chandler are both in “Broken City!” And they have scenes together! I always relish Barry Pepper appearances, and I love Kyle Chandler, and I was so excited to seem them argue. Who cares if their dialogue is so damn hammy?

Broken City, Barry Pepper, Kyle Chandler

You can only see the back of Barry Peppers head, and his weird longish hair, but isn’t it awesome?

Unfortunately Barry Pepper and Kyle Chandler (who has been on a stellar run, being in projects like Zero Dark Thirty), can’t save the film from mediocrity. The acting potential is there, the direction is okay, and I really loved the lengths it went to poke holes in the manly stereotypes; but once “Broken City” starts getting serious and tries to be edgy it reverts back to a boilerplate political thriller, and a broken one at that.

My Rating: 5/10



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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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