BROKEN CITY. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper. Directed by Allen Hughes. Rated MA 15+ (Strong coarse language and sexual references). 109 minutes.
Broken City is a film about urban corruption. This makes the film quite irrelevant, with so much political corruption in so many countries as well as in the administration of significant world cities
Mark Wahlberg plays, Billy, a police officer who, at the beginning of the film, is standing over a victim who has been shot. A court case follows and he is acquitted, especially because of a lack of evidence. However, he is in good standing with the chief of police (Jeffrey Wright), but he is also being selected for jobs by the mayor (Russell Crowe), who has a hold over him in connection with the evidence of the killing.
The scene having been set, seven years pass. Billy now runs a private detective agency, with an efficient secretary whose main tasks seem to be collecting payment from outstanding indebted clients. Billy has a quiet home life, with a partner, an actress starring in an independent film, and has given up alcohol for five years. What could go wrong?
The answer, of course, is more corruption. When he is employed by the mayor to follow his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones, he shows his skills in several engaging sequences, but he also uncovers a conspiracy which leads to murder. There is a buildup to the final confrontation between Billy and the mayor. Who has a hold over whom?
Russell Crowe gives a solid performance as the mayor, confident in his power and in his abilities, charming on the surface but continually ruthless. Mark Wahlberg does a variation on his theme of the lower-middle class man with a mission, ambiguous in his background, but with an inherent integrity. Catherine Zeta-Jones is integral to the plot but has comparatively few scenes.
The main part of the action takes place over only a few days, the final days in the campaign for the election of the mayor, the mayor during his utmost to please the public for re-election, even getting the city’s budget into the black, a substantial surplus, gained from selling a housing estate in the city. His opponent (Barry Pepper), makes accusations against the mayor, debates him in public, and has to deal with the murder of his campaign manager.
In many ways, the material is familiar, but has an interest because of intrigues, conspiracies, and dramatic confrontations. The film was directed by Allen Hughes, one of the Hughes brothers who directed such films as Dead Presidents and the Jack the Ripper thriller, From Hell.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out March 7, 2013.