Review: 'Broken City' could use some fixing
This film image released by 20th Century Fox shows Russell Crowe, left, Jeffrey Wright and Mark Wahlberg, right, in a scene from "Broken City." (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Alan Markfield)
It should come as no surprise that every character in a movie called "Broken City" is either rotten to the core, or a liar, or a schemer, or the bearer of seriously damaging secrets.
What is surprising — and frustrating, really — is that these characters never feel like real people, despite a series of twists that should reveal hidden, unexpected facets of their personalities and despite being played by big-name stars including Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones. They're all still conniving, only with varying alliances and targets.
This film image released by 20th Century Fox shows Russell Crowe, left, and Mark Wahlberg in a scene from "Broken City." (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Barry Wetcher)
At the center of these dizzying double crosses is Wahlberg as Billy Taggart, a former New York police detective who got kicked off the force after a questionable shooting. Seven years later, Billy is barely getting by as a private eye in Brooklyn. He is, however, sober these days and enjoying life with his gorgeous actress-girlfriend (Natalie Martinez) who's just starred in her first film. (Clips of the movie, which we see at the premiere, have the glossy, stilted look of a commercial for erectile dysfunction medication, just one of many elements of director Allen Hughes' film that feel distractingly unconvincing.)
This film image released by 20th Century Fox shows Catherine Zeta-Jones, left, and Russell Crowe in a scene from "Broken City." (AP Photo/20th Century Fox, Alan Markfield)
Then one day, New York City Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Crowe), who'd always been on Billy's side, hires Billy to investigate whether his wife (Zeta-Jones) is having an affair. Hostetler is up for re-election in a week and doesn't want to lose to his young, well-financed challenger, Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper), over scandalous revelations that he's being cuckolded.