Flick of the Week: Mark Wahlberg’s “Broken City” Needs Fixing

Broken City This absorbing, if not particularly plausible thriller has Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg), a disgraced cop barely escaping a murder charge after killing a rapist. While he is a hero in Mayor Nick Hostetler’s (Russell Crowe) eyes, Billy is removed from the force. Seven years later, his is struggling as a private eye, but hired by the Mayor–during the week of his re-election campaign–to track his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and photograph the man with whom she is having an affair. Of course, this simple task is not so simple, and things quickly get hinky. A dead body turns up, followed by blackmail, backstabbing, and dirty double-crosses.

While Broken City keeps all the standard detective genre elements in play–Billy snoops, then gets chased; he falls off the wagon and has girlfriend trouble–the film’s knotty narrative ultimately addresses a moral quandary: Will Billy sacrifice something dear to reveal the truth for the greater good?

But this film, as sleek as the New York skyline, is less concerned with the ethics and more focused on keeping all the amoral characters in play. (A scorecard would be helpful; when a character is identified in one key scene, viewers may ask: Who?) Alas, Zeta-Jones does little more that look mysterious behind big sunglasses getting to crack wise every once in a while, and Russell Crowe does a better job hiding his Australian accent than he does his characters’ sins. And while he is well cast in the role of a private eye, Wahlberg kind of sleepwalks through this film, adding little of his charisma save the few times he is punching some guy. Worst of all, Broken City telegraphs too much of its big reveals, making the suspense as lackluster as this film.

Also Opening

The Last Stand Former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to his former job as an actor to play a sheriff in this action film about a criminal on the run to Mexico.

LUV Common plays an ex-con who spends the day with his nephew in this indie drama.

Mama Oscar-nominee Jessica Chastain stars in this horror film about two kids with scary secrets.

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Gary Kramer

Gary M. Kramer is a Philadelphia-based film critic who thinks Sandra Bullock mambos. He likes eating ethnic food and watching ethnic movies—though not necessarily both at the same time or from the same country.

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