Sometimes films come along and get pretty bad reviews but, for what they are, are perfectly solid and reasonably enjoyable. This conspiracy thriller features a big name cast, twisty plot and, promise and truth be told, is far from brilliant. Yet the damming reviews feel rather cruel to a film that is enjoyable with its conventional material. There may be nothing in Allen Hughes’ film that hasn’t been encroached upon before. The noirish elements and deceptive narrative never approaches the likes of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown (from which it is clearly inspired), the rawness and moments of brutality will probably fail to match recent thrillers like End of Watch and the plotting fails to carry the smarts of State of Play. There are elements and clichés at work but this political conspiracy thriller, uses its inspirations efficiently.
The plot is fair enough, starting nicely and progressing with just enough twist and turns to hold your interest. Some things are very foreseeable and the major details are often too rapidly spewed out to absorb fully. Still, you get the general idea that political games are played with emphasis on the backhand strokes. In fact, there are a few fun showdowns, the best being an (all too realistic) onstage political debate. It is barely a new notion that political institutions are full of dark corridors, but still one that is played appropriately here. It is not rocket science and nor is it particularly deep but it’s sufficiently enjoyable. Even if the cast give this thriller way more gusto than many would.
Mark Wahlberg as Billy Taggart essentially plays himself but handles the rough neck ex-cop role with ease. He makes for a strained and reasonable protagonist, in spite of the really familiar character traits. Catherine Zeta-Jones’ ambiguous performance as the Mayor’s wife is also adequate enough, as are a few generous helpings of supporting faces, especially Jeffrey Wright. Still, the star of the show is the ever-watchable Russell Crowe as Mayor Hostetler. Crowe looks to be having immense fun as the powerful Mayor, playing his political battle to stay in his position another term. In fact Crowe and the cast lend a lot of weight to the overall product.
Broken City may not always be big on originality or brilliance but offers fun and a few moments of violent style. It feels convincingly hard, if forgettable next to the best of the genre and, in spite of an all round lack of tightness, the plot moves along well enough. Hughes’ direction is steady for the most part too, in spite of too many close-ups and it makes up for the drab scoring. Broken City will not realistically change any games but is a bit of fun while it lasts.
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