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Broken City
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by Peter Sobczynski

"8 Million Stories In The Naked City And They Pick This One?"
1 stars

By now, most savvy moviegoers know that the month of January tends to be a cinematic dead zone consisting almost entirely of holiday leftovers and outright crap being unceremoniously dumped by studios in the hopes of scoring a quick buck or two on product that might otherwise disappear without a trace in a more competitive period. And yet, despite a long history of painfully forgettable films that I would recount here were it not for the fact that I have forgotten them myself, "Broken City" nevertheless holds out the promise that it could be better than the multiplex norm for this time of the year. After all, it has no fewer than three A-list movie stars and a storyline that, to go by the trailer, offers up a stew of political corruption, sexual indiscretion and lots of people getting punched in the face--just the kind of thing that could help pass a couple of chilly hours in a reasonably painless and non-3D-enhanced manner. It turns out that this is not quite the case because "Broken City" is a junkpile of cliches that would be laughable were it not so utterly tedious and a waste of time and talent so thorough that it makes "Gangster Squad" seem like a wise and valuable use of its assets by comparison.

Eight Million Stories And They Chose The Boring O
As the film opens, two-fisted, hard-drinking, dumb-as-a-stump New York cop Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) guns down a punk who raped and murdered a young girl and then got off on one of those technicalities beloved by cruddy cop movies. Ironically, Billy himself beats the rap, thanks to the concealment of some incriminating evidence by no less a figure than tough-as-nails mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe), but nevertheless gets drummed off the force as a result. Seven years later, Billy is off the booze, dating the dead girl's sister () and working as a barely competent private investigator when he is contacted out of the blue by Hostetler with a business proposal. He suspects that his wife, Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is having an affair--a liability under most circumstances and especially so with him being in a hotly contested reelection campaign against a rich-but-idealistic councilman (Barry Pepper)--and he wants Billy to uncover the man's identity and is willing to pay handsomely for the information.

Because he is, as previously noted, not the brightest of metaphorical bulbs, Billy never asks himself why he was picked for this particular gig and still doesn't suspect that anything screwy is going on when the man who seems to be sleeping with Cathleen is his rival's campaign manager (Kyle Chandler). Even when Cathleen flat-out tells him that he is being lied to by her husband, Billy never questions anything as he hands the seemingly incriminating photos over to the mayor. It is only when the campaign manager turns up dead that it finally clicks with Billy that things are not exactly as they seem. With the aid of his spunky sidekick (), he finally begins to investigate what is going on and uncovers a web of scandal and corruption that eventually leads right to the--gasp!--highest corridors of power. In fact, the only possible way that the various diabolical plans could possibly fail is if the idiot detective--who has by now broken up with his girlfriend over her steamy appearance in an indie film and returned to the bottle with a vengeance--somehow manages to simultaneously pull himself together, gather indisputable evidence against the bad guys regarding whatever it is they are up to and accept responsibility for his own misdeeds. Of course, there is no way that any of that could possibly happen--or is there?

As boring as all of this sounds in the recounting--and it is has taken me an embarrassing amount of time to slog through the above recount, partly out of disinterest and partly out of having already forgotten nearly everything that happened despite having just seen the damn thing very recently--the execution of the material is practically coma-inducing. The screenplay by neophyte Brian Tucker feels like an entire season of one of the lesser "Law & Order" variants crammed into one two-hour blob studded with hoary cliches, cardboard characters who have to behave like idiots in order to keep things going, lamely foreshadowed plot twists that even the dullest of viewers will twig to long before they dawn on the aforementioned characters and an ending too dumb to be believed. And if that weren't bad enough, Tucker doubles-down on the stupidity by adding in the ridiculous subplot about Billy's girlfriend and the conflict inspired by her dreams of indie film stardom for no other apparent reason than to give him a reason to hit the bottle again--all of this stuff is painfully uninteresting, laughably unconvincing and then the screenplay doesn't even make a token effort at resolving it. I swear, it is enough to drive one to drink.

Making his solo directorial debut, Allen Hughes--one-half of the Hughes Brothers filmmaking team and, to judge from his efforts, the Andrew Ridgely of the duo--goes through the motions in such a listless manner that it is virtually indistinguishable from a direct-to-video potboiler. As for the actors, a strong cast--which also includes the perennially underrated Jeffrey Wright as the police commissioner with an agenda of his own--is largely wasted on roles that they could have easily played in their sleep. Of them, the biggest offender by far is Crowe, whose blowhard turn would be unconvincing as a third-rate ward-heeler, let alone the mayor of New York City. I don't want to suggest that an actor as gifted as Crowe is in a bit of a slump as of late but consider the fact that this is the third movie that he has been featured in to come out in as many months and the closest thing that he has given to a believable performance among them was in the chop-socky silliness known as "The Man with the Golden Fists."

Dumb and disposable in equal measure, "Broken City" is little more than this year's "Contraband"--the kind of film that one sees in January out of a lack of anything else to watch and forgets that it even existed by the time March rolls around. If you want to see a reasonably decent bit of entertainment involving a big-city mayor wielding his power over everything he touches, no matter what the cost, I humbly suggest that you give this one a pass and try either "City Hall," which featured Al Pacino as the mayor of New York in one of his more flamboyantly entertaining performances of the last couple of decades, or "Boss," the cable series that found Kelsey Grammer ruthlessly running Chicago. Neither of these are perfect by any means--and true political junkies may find them laughable--but they are at least watchable and stick in the mind after watching them. As for "Broken City," the most memorable aspect of the entire enterprise is one that is of an ancillary matter--Fox has been running ads featuring what appear to be quotes of breathlessly excited reviews of the film that turn out to have been taken directly from tweets sent by people who were commenting on the trailer and who had not actually seen the movie for themselves. Trust me--they got the better end of the deal in this particular case.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=23948&reviewer=389
originally posted: 01/17/13 21:23:51
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User Comments

1/09/14 Danielsan Reminded me of B-film noir movie from the 40's-well acted and engrossing 4 stars
11/04/13 patrick worst movie - worst sound -almost resorted to subtitles 1 stars
7/06/13 Monday Morning Don't believe these dickweeds...this is a four-star, hard-boiled cop movie. 4 stars
6/01/13 mr.mike Stupefyingly dull potboiler. 2 stars
5/30/13 action movie fan decent story of urban corruption, wahlberg is good as always 3 stars
1/19/13 Alex Snoozefest - skip it 1 stars
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  18-Jan-2013 (R)
  DVD: 30-Apr-2013


  DVD: 30-Apr-2013

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