Mark Wahlberg is one of those actors who have a career that feels smaller than it is, mainly because all of his film roles run together. Whether he’s playing another cop, or another criminal gone good, or another arrogant Bostonian, Wahlberg seems to regurgitate the same character over and over again, film to film. The sad thing is that, for the most part, he chooses a slew of forgettable films to grace his familiar shtick with.
To tell you the truth, ‘Broken City’ is no different.
Directed by Allen Hughes, one of the Hughes Brothers who made a name for themselves back in the early 90’s, ‘Broken City’ is your standard ‘bad cop gone good caught in a web of lies told by even badder (I know that’s not a word) men in higher places’ type stories; you know, the kind that Marky Mark has made a thousand times before (or so it would seem). In this film you have him sparring off against Russell Crowe, who plays the mayor of New York who hires former cop Wahlberg to spy on his wife, who he claims is having an affair. If you saw the trailers for the film then you basically know the whole story already. Zeta-Jones (the wife) isn’t really having an affair, but that is just a cover story told by Crowe, who is the real bad guy here.
Don’t you hate it when trailers give away the whole plot? This is one of those situations where I actually feel like the film itself may have been a better experience had the trailer left it at ‘Crowe thinks Zeta-Jones is having an affair’ and cut out all the ‘but it’s obvious that Wahlberg is being strung along and don’t miss this shot of Crowe giving the camera a look that spells out the fact that he is a deceitful villain’. I hate obviousness, and trailers cut like that take all the fun out of a film, especially since Crowe really doesn’t play his part too obviously and actually strings us along rather well for the first half of the film.
I don’t know what happened to Allen Hughes. I mean, ‘Menace II Society’ was one of those films that took me by complete surprise and wound up being one of the highlights of the 90’s for me. This just feels so pedestrian. There is no spark here. Nothing is thrilling and all of the high tension moments feel ripped from other films. How many times is there going to be a late night car chase by the river? Seriously? I’ve seen that scene before, done much better in another Russell Crowe film. Sadly, everything about this film feels borrowed and because of that I can’t recommend it at all. It is not a bad film, it just is so forgettable. Even the political aspect of the film felt so apathetic. At the end of it all there is nothing to care about here.
The acting is decent. Wahlberg does what he does, which is the same thing he did in the last movie but we’re used to it. He is not a bad actor, he just has no range. Zeta-Jones does nothing and pretty much could have been played by any actress. Crowe is in fine form, but the character is such an empty shell that I wish he would have walked away from the film altogether. He completely devours Wahlberg in their verbal sparring scenes, especially in the final one, but even that isn’t enough to save the film. The highlight here is easily Kyle Chandler, who makes so much out of a very small role. His few scenes are the best in the film, and the naturalness is lends to his every word (that train scene is magnificent) makes for a very flowing presence. I wanted to see more of him, but I really wouldn’t have wanted him to play any other role than the one he played, since it was the best in the film.
This won’t get touched by Oscar, and rightfully so. Still, the score is really nice and I do wish that Oscar (and awards bodies in general) would at least consider films like this in those categories. Ross and Sarne deliver the goods here in a genuinely provoking score that has just enough bite to make it feel intense despite the film lacking intensity.
I wish I could give this a higher grade, but a D is really all I can muster.