Broken City

Allen Hughes, one half of the directing brothers who did the stylized Jack The Ripper feature “From Hell” and street-life drama “Menace 2 Society,” flies solo for “Broken City.” And yet, if his name was not included in the credits you would’ve never known it. Lacking suspense, style, and the surprise effect “Broken City” falls on its face almost out of the gate.

Mark Wahlberg is Billy Taggert, a N.Y. detective who’s relieved of his duties after the community goes up in arms over a “in cold blood” shooting of a “supposed” rapist. Seven years later he’s a private eye who gets back into the good graces of Mayor Nick Hostetler (Russell Crowe) by agreeing to investigate the extra-marital affairs of his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Hostetler has just sold off a low-income housing project to relieve the city’s debts and is in a heated election with Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper), who, yes, is just as good as his last name indicates.

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First-time screenwriter Brian Tucker (a former stand-up comedian and comedy writer for Chris Rock and Chapelle’s Show) starts promisingly enough by focusing on an economic structure that favors the rich–but any provocation ends there. Before long Tucker goes the conventional route with a murder, a politician having a gay affair (which for some reason is brought up and then discarded), and a police cover-up and Taggert must wade through this mess to lead us back to the person we knew was pulling all the strings to begin with. Not only that but the film veers off and feels longer by getting involved in some plot points that wind up having no bearing on the plot, like Taggert’s drinking problem and jealousy over an actress girlfriend. Hughes manages to do nothing with this material, even his one car chase looks muddled and rushed-through.

It comes down to the two marquee actors to add any life. Wahlberg can play a hardened cop role like this in his sleep while Crowe shows he’s way more fun when he can verbally joust with the best of them rather than warble through a musical like “Les Miserables.” Meanwhile, Catherine Zeta-Jones for some reason sounds like she’s channeling one of those forties dames and doing a much better job of it than Emma Stone did last week in “Gangster Squad.”

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