Starring Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe. Written by Brian Tucker. Directed by Allen Hughes. 14A. 109 min.
Some actors are just meant to play cops, and after We Own the Night, The Other Guys, and Broken City, it’s safe to say that Mark Wahlberg is one of them. The role of NYPD officer-turned-private-investigator Billy Taggart is right up Wahlberg’s alley, because it asks him to do things he’s good pretty at—namely, running up alleys with his gun drawn and a determined look on his face. Billy is tortured by his past; his career change happened after he shot a rapist in cold blood and dodged a conviction. Wahlberg excels at internalized torment.
If the former Funky Buncher is well used, his co-star Russell Crowe is working well outside his usual range. As in Les Misérables, he’s cast as a villain, and once again it doesn’t work. Playing the power-hungry mayor who hires Billy to tail his seemingly adulterous wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) in the run-up to election day, Crowe is supposed to embody the old saying about absolute power corrupting absolutely. He has fingers in every pot and ulterior motives for every campaign promise, but he’s more tetchy than terrifying. In a film where everything hinges on a massive municipal conspiracy, Crowe’s character is just too underwhelming to serve as the ultimate villain.
Director Allen Hughes uses his big-city locations well, but the film is patchily edited and poorly paced, especially towards the end, when it shoehorns in a car chase, seemingly to fill some sort of generic quota. But in the end, Broken City isn’t exciting enough to be an action movie nor profound enough to hack it as a genuine political drama. It’s caught somewhere in the middle. Or rather, it’s simply middling.