BROKEN CITY – Review by Susan Granger

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This wannabe political thriller falls far short of its mark as it unravels the dense web of criminal conspiracies enveloping longtime incumbent New York City Mayor Nicholas Hosteler (Russell Crowe), who is vying for re-election with a younger, richer city councilman, Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper).

After he was forced to take a fall seven years ago for gunning down an exonerated rapist/gang member, allegedly in self-defense, former NYPD detective Billy Taggert (Mark Wahlberg) opened his own private investigation agency in Brooklyn. Working with an office assistant, Katy Bradshaw (Alona Tal), he’s often strapped for money. That’s why he accepts with alacrity a $50,000 cash offer from Mayor Hosteler to spy on the his classy wife, Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whom the blustering Mayor suspects of adultery.

The plot thickens when Billy concludes that Cathleen is involved with Paul Andrews (Kyle Chandler), campaign manager for Hosteler’s opponent Jack Valliant. But this case turns out to be far more convoluted since there’s a clandestine subplot revolving around a multibillion-dollar deal to level Bolton Village, a public housing project – and Billy is being used as a pawn. Adding to the complications are Police Commissioner Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) and Taggert’s aspiring-actress girl-friend, Natalie Barrow (Natalie Martinez), who just happens to be the older sister of the rape victim whom Billy bumped off and her family, conveniently, lives in the Bolton Village project.

Problem is: instead of characters, these are caricatures. With his wobbly accent, Russell Crowe’s municipal corruption is evident immediately and Mark Wahlberg’s earnestly blue-collar performance never rises above stereotype – nor does Catherine Zeta-Jones’ elegance.

Written by first-time screenwriter Brian Tucker, this is the first feature film that Allen Hughes has directed without his twin brother Albert. Sons of an African-American father and Armenian-American mother, the Hughes Brothers collaborated on “Menace II Society,” “Dead Presidents,” “From Hell,” “American Pimp” and “The Book of Eli.” But Albert has been living in the Czech Republic since 2004.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Broken City” is a feeble 5, a mundane melodrama.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.