Broken City

Jan 20, 2013

Broken Noir

Broken City
Grade: C+
Director:  Allen Hughes (American Pimp)
Screenplay: Brian Tucker
Cast: Mark Wahlberg (The Fighter), Russell Crowe (Les Miserables)
Rating: R
Runtime: 109 min.
by John DeSando

In Broken City, a film noir with a post-modern sensibility, even minor characters have hang-ups and the old plot twists involve motives more sinister than Raymond Chandler and Walter Mosley would allow.  But during the usual plot about corrupt cops and politicians, a few entertaining moments arise to make me long for the pleasures of Chinatown.

Broken City  is directed by Allen Hughes, his first effort without his brother; Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg), a former cop with a checkered career, now a private dick, is engaged by Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) to photograph evidence about his wife’s (Catherine Zeta-Jones) lover.  Being film noir, no one is as she or he seems, except Taggart and his faithful assistant, Katy (Alona Tal), and no situation like the sale of a housing project is without its underbelly.

So far everything I have written could have been written about countless other big-city crime stories. Therein lies my tepid reaction.  I had more fun with another noir a week ago, Gangster Squad, which has more action, less dialogue, and some impressive stars like Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and Josh Brolin.

Although Crowe and Wahlberg are comparable, the minor players like Barry Pepper as liberal foil to the mayor try too hard to make something out of forgettable roles.  Even Crowe has stayed too long under a sunlamp.

Thank goodness to production designer Tom Duffield for period piecing to compete with Gangster Squad’s.  Equally so is Ben Seresin’s cinematography, which is crisp and rich, making New Orleans an effective substitute for the Big Apple. It’s a visually delightful movie cloaking a mediocre experience.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at
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