‘Broken City’ a political thriller without thrills

Published 9:07 am Saturday, February 16, 2013

by Lauren Bradshaw

Sometimes you need to see bad movies to appreciate the good ones.

This is the mantra I tell myself whenever I see bad movies like “Broken City,” a political thriller that explores sleaziness and corruption in big-city mayoral politics.

While this type of plot should be rife with intrigue and exciting twists, the audience is instead left with a scattered storyline and undeveloped characters.

Mark Wahlberg stars as Billy Taggart, an ex-police detective turned private investigator that is having a hard time making ends meet. That is, until he gets a call from “old friend” Nicholas Hostetler, played by Russell Crowe, who is the mayor of New York City.

Hostetler asks Taggart to follow his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and bring him photographic evidence showing she is having an affair. The mayor explains that he is in a close race for re-election and does not want the people of New York to hear about this indiscretion and think him weak.

After Taggart seemingly completes the job, he realizes that this was not all it seemed; Hostetler has ulterior motives and needs to be stopped before his re-election.

It’s unfortunate that undeveloped characters and a drawn-out, disorganized storyline take away from “Broken City’s” interesting premise. The extremely one-dimensional characters are not written to evoke any kind of emotion from the audience and never feel like actual people.

In fact, throughout most of the movie even the “good guys” are detached and unlikable. With such big names as Crowe, Wahlberg and Zeta-Jones, it’s unfortunate that their talents were wasted.

If the screenwriter had spent a little more time developing the characters, this might have been a better film.

The storyline is unnecessarily convoluted; at times it is hard to keep up with what is going on and who is double-crossing whom. Additionally, the “twist” isn’t that shocking or interesting, and there are many plot points that serve no purpose, such as the relationship between Taggart and his actress girlfriend.

Amidst the moments of forced conflict, it was difficult to feel invested in what would happen next.

“Broken City” does have funny dialogue, mostly between Taggart and his assistant, played by Alona Tal.

Unfortunately, the other laughs came unintentionally during serious scenes, like when a box with incriminating information against Hostetler happens to be discarded right when Taggart is looking through the trash.

Due to the dull plot twist and lack of character development, the film ended up being a thriller without the thrills.

“Broken City” is not the type of movie you will remember a month from now. The storyline was uninteresting and the characters were forgettable. If you’re dying to see it, I would suggest waiting for its television release. On the bright side, at least in this film Crowe didn’t sing.