O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Yes, that was the title of the 2000 film that starred George Clooney about escaped-from-a-chain-gang fugitives on the run in search of treasure in the Deep South circa 1930. The key element connecting that film to this one is that the film was made by Coen Brothers. In film circles, we also have the former Wachowski brothers now more accurately described as siblings, and the Hughes Twins – Allen and Albert all of whom DIRECT films.
Broken City was directed by Allen Hughes working from Brian Tucker’s script. There’s no sign of Albert Hughes in this effort. In this film there are a number of people in search of the truth, and while the word treasure is strictly not being sought, there is a huge payday for a few of the characters at stake.
By way of a short synopsis, the IMDB entry for Broken City reads:
In a city rife with injustice, ex-cop Billy Taggart seeks redemption and revenge after being double-crossed and then framed by its most powerful figure: Mayor Nicholas Hostetler.
Now the casting is pro forma and doesn’t require any head scratching at all. The ex-cop Billy Taggart is played by Mark Wahlberg, who also appeared in a similar role exactly a year ago in Contraband. Is Wahlberg aiming to become the King of January releases? Any way, Taggart’s from the neighborhood, he’s all blue-collar, and he believes in justice – though he’s not necessarily locked into the thought that justice can only be found in a courtroom.
Russell Crowe, fresh from a lengthy stint as Javert in Les Miserables, may have needed a paycheck to tide him over while he waited for the productions of Man of Steel and Noah to begin. Here he plays the Mayor of New York, one Nick Hostetler, and one need not require a large leap of faith to figure that if Mark Walhberg is the good guy, then Russell Crowe must be the bad guy. Yes, Crowe is once more saddled with a horrible hair cut. Now a haircut doesn’t make you either heroic nor villainous. but this Mayor is also a guy who looked like he bathed in a tub filled with quick tanning bronzer – you know a suntan without the sun.
Then we have Jeffrey Wright as the out-in-the-field Police Commissioner Carl Fairbanks, Catherine Zeta-Jones as the Mayor’s wife with an agenda of her own, Barry Pepper as the other Mayor election candidate, Natalie Martinez as Mrs. Taggart, Alona Tal as Taggart’s gal friday, and Kyle Chandler as the would be MacGuffin. Even Griffin Dunne shows up as a rich s.o.b. with no social conscience at all in a distinctly small role.
The film has been assembled as a modern-day noir – with corruption peeking out of every nook and crevice. Yet nothing is as you think it is. Every time you think you know what’s going on they toss a new twist or surprise at you. Only it isn’t all that difficult to see the ‘surprises’ coming. At least from the audience’s perspective. Unfortunately, Billy Taggart is always the last one to figure something out.
Allen Hughes is working from a weak script. He has a few eye-popping shots of the Verrazano Bridge, and other famed Manhattan bridges. He also has a nice shot of the exterior of Grand Central Station, and a few seconds of an interior shot of this station. Unfortunately, Hughes overlooked the fact that trains departing for points east, like Montauk out on Long Island never leave from Grand Central Station. To get to Montauk you’d board at Penn Station. But maybe you think that is being picky.
But they bill the film as a story about corruption in New York politics. However, that being said, aside from exteriors, most of the principle shooting was done in New Orleans. Sorry, the Big Easy is no stand in for the Big Apple. There are gun shots fired, automobile chases that seem straight out of the Jason Bourne school of car chases, and of course there is the back room real estate deal worth billions that seems a direct lift from Boss which will not be back for a third season on the Starz Network.
After far too many plot turns including many unsurprising twists – the film drags itself to its expected conclusion. As Crowe’s Hostetler is led away, I half expected him to say – I’ll tear your eyes out – you’re messing with the wrong Mayor. He didn’t say that – instead he told his wife to not wait up for him.
The film is best described as something to see if the rain keeps you from doing what you really would like to do. Otherwise if the temps and general weather conditions are to your liking, then skip this film. The film lacks high points and continuity. We get a nice turn from Natalie Martinez as the actress wife of Billy Taggart. Seems like her love scene in an independent film that she starred in was too much for Billy. How do they resolve this – simple – we never see her again.
Billy has abstained from drinking for at least 7 years, but watching his wife on-screen drove him right back to tossing down double shots of Jamieson Whiskey with absolutely zero after effects.
There’s not a lot of suspenseful tension or stress. You don’t develop a rooting interest in the lead character as he is more of a brooder than a charismatic lead. Zeta-Jones, Martinez, and Tal mostly outshine, and out perform the members of the male cast . But we definitely don’t see enough of them. Once you see this film, you will readily understand why films that are most likely to fail to recoup their investments always seem to open in January.
As for Albert Hughes, the missing brother, – O Brother Where Art Thou? Three point zero is the rating and that’s being kind. This is not a film that lived up to its trailer. Not recommended.