Mark Wahlberg has an affinity for putting himself in nice action roles for January movies. In January 2012, he starred in Contraband as a family man who is pulled back into a life of crime. With this year's Broken City, he is a disgraced New York City cop who gets embroiled in the political drama and espionage centered on a New York City Mayor, played by Russell Crowe.
Teased in the Broken City trailer, Wahlberg plays Bill Taggart, an NYPD officer who became a firebrand of controversy when he shot a man whom he claimed had a weapon. Taggart was brought up on charges, cleared, but then fired by the Mayor (Crowe) and the Police Chief (Jeffrey Wright) due to the PR mess.
The story fast forwards seven years later and we learn that Taggart has fallen in love and is living with the sister of the little girl who was killed by the man that Wahlberg shot down. He is making a living as a private eye when the phone rings and it's the Mayor.
New York City's leader wants Taggart to follow his wife (Catherine Zeta Jones) because he believes she is cheating. The former cop is promised a big paycheck and given that he sees it as a chance to get back in good with the city, he takes the gig. What he finds only opens up a mystery that pulls the private dick deep into a conspiracy of corruption that threatens his entire world.
Crowe is a powerhouse as the Mayor and after his turn in Les Miserables as the villain, one wonders if he has chosen a new career path embodying evil. Let's just say he's pretty good at it. Crowe nails the slippery nature of a politician, especially one that rules over the nation's largest city.
Not for one minute do we doubt that this is a man who has lived and given his life to the city he adores. The Australian also brings out the best in Wahlberg with their electric scenes together.
Wahlberg continues to select action hero parts that work for his persona and fit into his wheelhouse. This is a character who he feels was wronged and has nothing but desire to make it right. When, while trying to make it right, his name is further sullied, you get a Wahlberg performance that shines with every turn. It's like he's seeking vindication... squared. By giving his character a girlfriend, something that was not always in the script, filmmakers have allowed the actor's natural warmth to shine through and give his Taggart true purpose.
Director Allen Hughes leaves his normal filmmaking partner behind -- his brother Albert -- and tackles his first film by himself after achieving solid films with Menace II Society and From Hell. He is quite at home in the crime and suspense genre and effortlessly moves to helming solo.
Our Broken City review can safely say that the film is a solid political thriller. There are a few missteps and holes that can easily be overlooked. The nitty-gritty details of why Crowe's Mayor is a political hot potato does not quite jive with what we as a society know about the city of New York.
I had to ask myself if this big secret at the heart of the film would not be uncovered by some enterprising New York City journalist in the eight years that the Mayor has been in office.
That fact aside, and as evidenced even in this Broken City clip, the film is a welcome addition to the normally slow movie month of January.