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Movie Review: Broken City

Allen Hughes (Menace II Society) shows that he can do the gritty city thriller here in the 21st Century with Broken City.  Meanwhile, Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones have a grand old time getting into their characters and playing the ol’ double/triple cross.  It’s a fun film that isn’t tough to follow — a nice bit of work that, considering all the maneuvering these characters get into — but delivers a fast-paced look at corruption and the lengths people will go to cover their tracks.

Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) is an ex-cop that quit the NYPD under less-than-perfect circumstances.  Seven years later he’s a PI that’s trying to make ends meet, when he gets a call from NYC Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe).  Who happens to be the former police chief, don’cha know.  Seems the Mayor wants Taggart to see who the Mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is sleeping with, other than the Mayor.  Taggart obliges, but is it about adultery, or is the Mayor after something else?

All is not what it seems in Broken City.  There are plenty of double-crosses, with twists and turns throughout the film right until the bitter end.  Director Hughes played it smart by casting top-notch actors here, including Jeffrey Wright, and actor I’ve adored ever since I first saw him in  Basquiat.  There’s also Barry Pepper (True Grit) and Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights), as a young upstart looking to become the next Mayor, and his campaign manager.

Broken City is shot like a graphic novel, which gives it a darker feel than the usual city thriller.  (That could also be some lingering effect of Hughes’ work on the film version of Alan Moore’s graphic novel From Hell.)  There’s an ominous sense of danger throughout the film, and as the layers are stripped away, I marveled at the work done by screenwriter Brian Tucker.  Not bad for Tucker’s first time at bat.

Yes, there are plenty of thrillers knocking around, with even more headed to the multiplex soon.  But Broken City takes the suspense thriller and does something a lot of films in this genre forget to do; give the people real suspense and a few yeah-they-did-that thrills.

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