Movie Review: Broken City (2013)
There’s a point in Allen Hughes’ “Broken City” when ex-cop, now private investigator, Billy Taggert (Mark Wahlberg), begins to investigate his own investigation.
Five days before a tight election, Billy is hired by New York City Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe), to follow his wife, Cathleen (Catherine Zeta Jones), whom he suspects of infidelity. Lo and behold, Billy finds her in a house on the far end of Long Island having a clandestine meeting with Paul Andrews (Kyle Chandler), the opposition candidate’s campaign manager. Then Andrews winds up dead. So Billy asks for, and receives, a clandestine meeting of his own meeting with Cathleen, on the far end of a deserted pier (really?), and she tells him he’s been played for a sap. She was never having an affair with Andrews. She was going to be his snitch, not his snatch. She hates her husband, he’s corrupt, etc., and she was going to bring him down. Now it’s too late. Because apparently she can’t reveal that information to anyone else.
What information? One of the big issues in the election is the Bolton Village housing project, which is where, seven years earlier, Billy, still a cop, shot and killed a young man, Mikey Tavarez, who had earlier been acquitted of the murder and rape of a young girl. The incident roiled the city—white cop, Hispanic kid—but Billy was found not guilty. He lost his job but he walked. Later we find out that Billy’s girlfriend, the budding actress and supreme hottie Natalie Barrow (Natalie Martinez), is actually Natalia Barea, the sister of the murdered girl. So was Billy her boyfriend then? Or did that happen later, as a kind of seven-year-long thank you? Either way: Ick.
Hostetler’s opponent, Jack Valiant (Barry Pepper), sporting a Prince-Valiantish haircut no serious contender for mayor would wear, claims Bolton Village won’t be saved by Hostetler but razed. He claims Hostetler is in the pockets of rich developers like Sam Lancaster (Griffin Dunne), whose company has a contract with the city to redevelop Bolton Village. Lancaster’s son, Todd (James Ransone of “The Wire” and “Generation Kill”), with whom the old man has very public fights, was actually going to meet Andrews before Andrews was killed. Which is why Billy stakes out the Lancaster development company.
It’s late at night but there’s tons of activity. Things are being tossed into overflowing garbage bins, and when Billy sneaks close, he uncovers a box and looks at three papers inside: the first two show the plans to raze Bolton Village; the last is a blueprint of the high-rise they plan to put in its place. Ah ha! These three pieces of paper Billy found could cost Hostetler the election!
Then Billy peeks inside the building, sees Sam and Todd fighting (again), and various men shredding documents.
My question: What the hell are these guys shredding if not the three pieces of paper Billy just found?
All of “Broken City” is like this. It’s a ridiculous, over-the-top movie where everyone has one degree of separation from everyone else, and where Mark Wahlberg, bless his heart, has two acting ranges: kinda blank and kinda angry. Is Billy supposed to be an alcoholic? Once he falls off the wagon, he seems to function fine. Can Wahlberg not do hangovers or regrets, or is that not part of his movie-star persona?
One keeps watching to see if the thing finally makes sense. It doesn’t. The Mayor isn’t just in the pockets of the developers, he is a developer. He has a 50 percent stake in Lancaster’s firm. So the $4 billion the city is paying Lancaster to redevelop (that is, raze) Bolton Village? He gets half. Where is the press in all this? And why doesn’t anyone who’s trying to reveal the information (Cathleen, Todd) reveal it to The New York Times? Why don’t they put it on WikiLeaks? Why don’t they post it on Facebook, or tweet it, or create a Tumblr site? I mean, c’mon. What year are we in?
But Hostetler gets his. When he tries to blackmail Billy with direct evidence that Billy shot and killed Mikey Tavarez in cold blood, which he did (that’s our hero, btw), Billy records the conversation with that shitty Voice Memo iPhone app, and turns it over to Police Chief Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright, wasted), even though it means he’ll go to jail, too. And as Fairbanks leads Hostetler away, the day before the election, he lets him know that his wife was having an affair after all. With him.
Watch “City of Hope.”