Title: Broken City
Director: Allen Hughes (‘From Hell’)
Action films are typically known for featuring continuous fast-paced stunts, and as a result, often forgo an intelligible or well-developed plot-line that gives audiences ideas to contemplate. But director Allen Hughes welcomely changed the standards of the action crime drama genre with his new film, ‘Broken City.’ Led by a versatile cast, including Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe, who naturally changed their respective characters’ motives, feelings and beliefs as they encountered life-changing obstacles, the film truly delved into the question of how far people would go in order to protect their lives.
‘Broken City’ starts off with a literal bang, chronicling New York City Detective Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) as he shoots a former suspect who was freed from murder charges. While the city is questioning whether or not the police officer was justified in the shooting, Mayor Nicolas Hosteler (Crowe) hides evidence in the case, so that it won’t go to trial. The story then jumps seven years, as Billy’s now working as a private detective.
Barely able to make ends meet for himself and his girlfriend, Natalie Barrow (Natalie Martinez), Billy accepts a job from the mayor, who’s campaigning for reelection. With the promise of a $50,000 payment, Billy takes a job following Nicolas’ wife, Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who the mayor thinks is having an affair. With the help of his office manager, Katy Bradshaw (Alona Tal), Billy soon realizes that he has taken on more than he can bargain for with the investigation. After speaking with the police commissioner, Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright), and Nicolas’ opponent in the race, Councilman Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper), who both don’t agree with the mayor’s ways, Billy discovers the man who kept him out of jail is keeping deadly, dangerous secrets from him.
Screenwriter Brian Tucker created an intense, action-filled script that highlighted the question of how far politicians would go in order to stay in power, make money and keep their secrets hidden. The story also subtly chronicles the pain the economically depressed experience at the hands of powerful officials who are only interested in protecting their own money, without the consideration of the livelihood of those less fortunate themselves.
Crowe, who was well-cast in the role of Mayor Nicolas Hosteler, powerfully emphasized the character’s desire and need to maintain control over the people he governs, in order to continue living the life he wanted. As a rich man striving to continue his successful political career, the actor cunningly played Nicolas as only pretending to care about keeping the residents of the apartment complex where Natalie’s parents live, and where her sister was killed by the suspect Billy killed, safe. But he truly only looked at how rebuilding the area would benefit his career, which led him to desperately try to keep his wife and the private detective quite about their knowledge of his wrongdoings.
Wahlberg, who also served as a producer on ‘Broken City,’ gave a more riveting and realistic performance in the film than the crime drama he appeared in last January, ‘Contraband.’ The actor understood Billy’s continuous struggle to make a moral living and lead an honorable lifestyle for Natalie, as he wanted to improve himself after the shooting. While he initially welcomed the money from the mayor, as he thought it would improve his life, he soon comes to despise it as he uncovers the unethical and illegal actions Nicolas took to protect his position. Wahlberg convincingly developed the character from thinking he could take justice into his own hands into wanting to help the police commissioner and the councilman uncover and expose the truth behind the mayor.
Production designer Tom Duffield powerfully showcased the changes in lifestyle between the mayor and his wife and Billy and Natalie through the ever-changing, powerful sets that characteristic each side’s motivations. Duffield naturally showed the difference between the two sides by creating exquisite homes, hotel suites and banquet halls for Nicolas’ campaigning, that continuously showed his desire to stay in power and continue making money. But the production designer created smaller, more tattered spaces for Billy; from his cramped office that was in constant disarray to his more meager apartment he shared with Natalie, Billy’s surroundings continuously emphasize the private detective’s fall from grace after his arrest seven years earlier.
The forceful, action-driven script and characters of ‘Broken City’ created an intense look into the deceitful, and often times dangerous, world of American politics. From chronicling the struggles economically depressed residents face as politicians continuously work to maintain their way of life throughout the story to the unique sets created to emphasize the struggles each side faces, the film continuously showcases the differences in their lifestyles. Aided by Crowe’s meticulous portrayal of the mayor’s desire and need to maintain control over people to Wahlberg’s showcasing Billy’s desire to morally change his life, the action crime drama succeeds in showing the motivations and dreams of government officials and the people they agree to protect.
Written by: Karen Benardello