Natalie Stendall Film Review: Broken City is a disappointing homage to classic noir

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Allen Hughes’ (From Hell, The Book Of Eli) much anticipated political thriller, Broken City, is a disappointing homage to classic noir.

Mark Wahlberg is Billy Taggart, an ex-cop thrown out of the force for killing the man who murdered his girlfriend’s sister. Now working as a private detective, Taggart is commissioned by Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) to identify his wife’s (Catherine Zeta Jones) lover before election day. Taggart inadvertently discovers a hot bed of corruption and must use brains and brawn to escape a set-up. Enter murder, a nocturnal car chase and blistering manipulation.

Broken City should be edge of the seat exciting and fraught with tension but even though Brian Tucker’s script delivers a handful of unexpected twists, taut thrills are few and far between in this over-complex and fatigued crime mystery. Tucker’s debut screenplay takes too long to heat up and, when it does, frequently loses momentum between key plot developments. Efforts to make Broken City’s characters more dynamic are even less successful as Taggart’s fleeting dalliance with alcoholism is shelved almost as soon as it is mentioned.

Wahlberg, Crowe and Zeta-Jones weigh-in with predictable performances that bring little flair to this conventional thriller. Of all the movie’s A-list cast, Crowe keeps audiences watching, ploughing through Mayor Hostetler’s slick hair and fake tan to give us a sleazy and detestable politico. Wahlberg and Crowe muster up enough on-screen friction to keep Broken City from falling apart, while Barry Pepper, as mayoral opponent Jack Valliant, offers up some searing political ripostes.

An 80s inspired soundtrack brings a touch of glamour to the proceedings and the opening scene that sees Taggart’s downfall from NYPD is shot with a flourish of style. Yet Broken City fails to either recapture the simmering tension and visual appeal of vintage noir or offer an exciting, original interpretation. Instead, in Broken City, director Allen Hughes gives us a middle of the road political thriller that despite its A-list cast is, ultimately, forgettable.

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 108 minutes

Verdict: 2/5