An ex-cop turned private eye (Mark Wahlberg) is called in by the mayor who asked him to resign (Russell Crowe) so that he can carry out an incredibly lucrative surveillance job to see if the mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is having an affair. All is not as it seems and as he investigates the mayor’s wife the detective unravels a plot of political corruption and conspiracy.
With a synopsis like that you might well be expecting a taut political thriller filled with intrigue and misdirection that deftly unfolds with a stylish twist at the end. Sadly this is not what is on offer in Broken City. Instead we have a run-down shell of a thriller then doesn’t so much unfold as creak open with a judder. It’s hard to put my finger on precisely what is wrong with the film so I’m increasingly convinced that it may well be everything.
An early scene features a conversation between the mayor and the police captain (Jeffrey Wright) in which both are acutely aware that they are in a political thriller. As if competing to set the dark tone of the film both actors are doing their best deep gravely voice, think Batman and Bane, which makes the conversation tricky to comprehend and lends the film an air of satire from the outset. In the same room later on another conversation takes place and while Wahlberg doesn’t try to get his voice nice and low the camera serves as a massive distraction and it bobs about the room while its subject sit still on chairs.
The film is just ridiculous.
Catherine Zeta-Jones does her best to give a vampy performance as the mysterious mayor’s wife but when you put this alongside Mark Wahlberg giving his usual wide-eye Neanderthal performance it all becomes too mismatched. They aren’t helped by the script either filled as it is with weak dialogue and poor plotting. I’m not even going to get into the bizarre sub-plot involving Wahlberg’s girlfriend making an independent film which somehow looks even worse that Broken City itself.
In a world where we have access to TV shows like Boss and House of Cards in which we are shown just how good a political thriller can be there is no reason for such a sub-par film to be made. If this is the best that cinema has to offer it is no wonder that more and more talent is heading to the smaller screen.
Broken City was bad enough for me to question whether or not is was actually a parody but in the end it wasn’t nearly clever enough for that to be the case. The film is as ham-fisted as Mark Wahlberg’s face. And as lazy and confused as the previous sentence.
Psst… The film does have one redeeming feature. In a climactic final scene Jeffrey Wright delivers a line that reminded me of one of the three endings to the film Clue:
I’m going home to have sex with my wife.