‘Broken City’ Movie Review – Broken Plot
People tend to harp on superhero movies for over saturating the market, but at least we only get 3-4 a year. Look at crime dramas as one of the real culprits, because besides this week’s Broken City, movies like the upcoming Parker, Snitch, and last month’s Stand Up Guys (opening wider next month) all share similar elements. These films are turning into a dime a dozen, and Broken City tries to be an all-out thriller but rings much more mediocre. Interestingly, the main problem with the movie is how hard it does try.
Right away, the movie throws us right into the middle of what looks like a Trayvon Martin-like case. Billy (Mark Wahlberg) had just gunned down a younger man, and he was subsequently put on trial for the murder. Even though the court finds him to be acting in self-defense, he is pushed out of the police force. One of the only reasons he doesn’t go to jail is because of Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe), who helps eliminate some incriminating evidence.
Fast forward 7 years. Billy has become a Private Investigator, but his primary duties mostly consist of spying on suspicious men and women to see if they’re cheating on their spouses.
Right before the new election, Mayor Hostetler hires Billy to spy on his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and the timing before his election is no coincidence. The last week leading up to the election is full (and I mean FULL) of twists-and-turns.
Normally, twists are a good thing. Obviously, if a storyteller can fool an entire audience, they’re doing something right. The first half of Broken City goes pretty formulaically, building towards something.
Then, it just goes bazeerk, rattling off twist after twist after twist. It becomes completely tiring, and the story becomes convoluted in ways that don’t really matter, nor make sense.
It’s this kind of mindlessness that is the most disturbing about the movie. It doesn’t really have a focus. The final scene (or two) may bring the movie into the moral-making business, but leading up to it, it’s just a bunch of bad people doing bad things. I hardly doubt the point of the story was to make everyone in politics look bad, so I have a feeling this was a tool to exploit the narrative.
One prime example is Billy’s use of alcohol. The 7 years after his incident, Billy swears off alcohol, to make things with his girlfriend (Natalie Martinez) work. For no real good reason, he throws this out the window, and the story uses the oldest trick-in-the-book (his relapse) to define a lot of the story. Then, it doesn’t really settle itself by the end.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only instance, but who am I to ruin all the “surprises”?
The Hughes (Albert and Allen) brothers should’ve stuck to a smaller story, thus creating smaller situations that didn’t seem so false. I would’ve been much more interested in the leading conflict than the political mess. The movie still isn’t the worst I’ve seen, but Broken City is evidence that crime movies are about as overdone as those run-of-the-mill romantic comedies.
See Broken City this weekend in wide release, and let me know if you think I’m right or wrong.
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