broken_cityPreviously: The Impossible. John Dies at the End. Texas Chainsaw 3-D. Gangster Squad. Promised Land.

The idea of Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe making a Sidney Lumet-esque movie in today’s market with one of the Hughes Brothers calling the shots is an intriguing one. There are precious few movies of that ilk and more often than not they come off a little soft despite the best efforts of good filmmakers like James Gray and Antoine Fuqua. Broken City‘s conflict is born out of a disgraced police detective [Walhberg] who is hired by the mayor [Russell Crowe] to investigate his cheating wife [Catherine Zeta-Jones]. Hard up for money and looking for a pick me up from working with New York’s most powerful man this side of Derek Jeter, Walhberg’s Billy Taggert inadvertently enters a much bigger scandal than he expected. Lies, violence, and the usual doses of corruption follow.

Where the film works is in juggling an interesting cast, particularly the underused Barry Pepper and the always fun Michael Beach. Geoffrey Wright elevates every film he’s in and it’s nice to see Zeta-Jones easing into the next phase of career effortlessly. Russell Crowe is on autopilot here and though he doesn’t do any attempt to hide his black hat it’s better have an actor of his statue here over the typical fare. Had John Slattery played the part it would have been a little more complex but impossible to fund. Walhberg is his usual steady but subdued self here carrying the film along fine but without a whole lot of electricity. He’s built for this kind of movie, able to sell the street smarts and blue-collar physicality and wise enough to let the colorful actors around him fill the margins. There’s nothing spectacular though.

The story is fine but doesn’t have enough freshness to really stick out. Ideally the market would withstand more movies like this in the January schedule, films that don’t offend that don’t try to sell their audience a bill of goods. Just meaty old school fare. It’s just not meaty enough or unique enough to register as anything other than a couple of hours of unspectacular cinema.

Allen Hughes is a good director. Here’s hoping his next one swings for the fences.

What the Hell is an Alona Tal?

An adorable actress who almost steals this movie as Wahlberg’s assistant.

Is Kyle Chandler a dreamboat?

There’s a fine line between looking like Odin slammed you in the face so hard your skin is attempting to reconvene and having a roguish handsomeness. Mr. Chandler treads that line every day. On this day he is a man worthy of lust and respect.

How has Griffin Dunne recovered from his werewolf attack?

Griffin Dunne is in this movie. Which is great. His success here depends on your perspective. His flesh hath returneth. His eyes are opened and shining. There is not one iota of 80’s garb on his person. But because the actor/director has been so scarce onscreen it’s tough seeing the terrific Dunne a few decades later. He’s too good to be this rare in movies. But it’s a tough choice between being a virile dead 20 year old werewolf victim and a 50 year old racquetball conqueror of Russell Crowe.

Do we get to see Mark Wahlberg’s powerful muscles?

Not as much as YOU want to see, CHUD’s two female readers. Not as much as YOU want to see, every of CHUD’s male readers. He does not spend a large portion of the film being shirtless and rippling like an angry sea.

Barry Pepper and Russell Crowe run for office. Who do I vote for?

Whomever’s policies most easily allow for us all to continue having clandestine guilt free sexual conquests in the stockroom of the local Arby’s. Duh. Also: The one who isn’t Republican.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars

Nick On… Is my new ongoing movie review column. The goal is to distill things a little and make it a little more playful and easier to digest rather than the long form. Hope you like. Please let me know what you think as there will be many of these coming and the goal always is to improve. Please share and whatnot.

– Nick (Twitter, Facebook)

Previously: The Impossible. John Dies at the End. Texas Chainsaw 3-D. Gangster Squad. Promised Land.