Broken City

Starring Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta Jones
In UK cinemas March 1st 2013

by Ruth Thomson

This City Hall thriller has surprisingly more to it than meets the eye as Russell Crowe, Mark Wahlberg and Catherine Zeta Jones spin a web of intrigue and infidelity around the race to be, or at least stay, Mayor of the Big Apple. Wahlberg, not exactly playing against type, is Billy Taggart – a good hearted cop who as the film opens is facing recriminations over the shooting of a young black rape suspect. Although cleared events quickly change course as Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Crowe) makes it clear to Billy that he has no option but to stand down… Cut to seven years later and Mayor Nicky is still in power and is as manly as ever (after all no urban office is complete without copious amounts of Scotch, hunting rifles, and a black Labrador), but his reign is under threat from posh and strangely anaemic looking Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper). Billy is now earning a living as a private detective and the fun really kicks off when he receives the mayoral summons from above to hunt down whoever Nicky’s glamorous wife’s (CZJ of course) is at it with – after all the good people of the NY ain’t going to want a cuckold for a mayor.

Despite appearing initially to be just like any other NYPD/City Hall based movie (I’m sure I’ve seen Marky Mark play this role a good few times before), Broken City has enough twists to keep you guessing as the tension mounts in the run up to a televised debate between the two candidates. And the relationship between the two protagonists eventually comes full circle linking the action back to events of seven years earlier.

Crowe as the manipulative Hostetler is suitably smarmy though as ever there are some questionable moments in his New York/Boston/Sydney/Fantasyland accent – mercifully he doesn’t have to sing. But the stand out performance is Wahlberg, especially convincing in his complicated relationship with his Hispanic actress girlfriend (Natalie Martinez). Her attempts to lure him into her bohemian ‘metrosexual’ circle of friends meet with resistance and one of the stand out scenes is the premiere of her new film which sees Billy squirming uncomfortably through a none too classy sex scene. The smart script is also not beyond poking fun at the clichés of the genre, with Billy asking during a particularly cryptic conversation ‘does no one talk in full sentences in this city anymore?’

All in all a perfectly satisfying way to spend two popcorn fueled hours.

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