Broken City *** ( R) This urban political/crime drama is surprisingly well-scripted, with more than its fair share of twists and turns. Mark Wahlberg plays a hardnosed New York cop, who is stripped of his badge early in the film over a controversy about his shooting an alleged rapist. Although the mayor (Russell Crowe) understands and approves of what he did, public outrage over what may have been excessive force compels The Brass to throw Wahlberg under the proverbial bus.
The story jumps ahead seven years. He’s been struggling to exist as a private detective. Suddenly, Hizzoner calls him in for a lucrative job - tailing his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) to see who she’s boinking. That results in photos of her meetings with the campaign manager of his opponent in the final week before voting in his neck-and-neck race for re-election. A huge real estate deal regarding an existing housing project is the hot-button topic. Did the mayor save the city from bankruptcy, or lavish a bonanza on his wealthy supporters at the expense of the residents?
Brian Tucker’s script is particularly impressive for a rookie. Director Allen Hughes’ experience in the genre helps, with the pacing and mostly non-glamorous settings well-suited to the material. The rating comes more from violence than sexual content, and is relatively restrained. Wahlberg, Crowe and Jeffrey Wright (the police chief) add solid performances.
This is Crowe’s second role in less than a month as a distinctly unlikable character, following his Inspector Javert in Les Miserables. Could he be trying to supplant Mel Gibson as everyone’s least-favorite Australian actor? (1/18/13)