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Review: All-star cast can't fix 'Broken City'

By Michelle F. Solomon, Contributing writer
Published On: Jan 18 2013 05:24:53 PM EST
Mark Wahlberg in Broken City, blurb size

20th Century Fox

There's nothing in "Broken City" that we haven't seen before. It's a crime drama that could easily play on network television, except "Broken City" has upped the ante with an all-star cast that chews up the Hollywood scenery like folks in an old Bogart movie.

"Broken City" stars Mark Wahlberg as Billy Taggart, a no-holds-barred ex-New York City detective who gets his badge taken away when he shoots and kills a thug who, it ends up, he had some personal connections to. After he's let go from the force, he opens a private detective agency where he spies on adulterers, yet the people who hire him keep stiffing him on their payments due. When the mayor approaches Taggart with a personal job for a large amount of money, the gumshoe gets involved in something more complicated than he imagined.

Russell Crowe portrays New York Mayor Hostetler and Crowe digs into the charismatic politico with all his might. Problem is, it's hard to believe (and it's referenced more than a few times in the script) that Hostetler is a Queens, N.Y., boy. It's hard to believe for a minute that the character ever stepped foot in the borough let alone was born and bred there since Crowe has a hard time covering up his Aussieness.

Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Cathleen, the First Lady of New York, and it's a typical role for her. There's no stretch here for the 43-year-old as she sips champagne, is ushered in and out of chauffeured cars, and wears designer clothes that look like she brought her own wardrobe to the set. But Zeta-Jones just needs to look beautiful in the film and she does so with little effort.

The film belongs to Wahlberg and there's never an if, and, or but about it. Not only did he act in it, but he signed on to produce it as well. His puppy-dog character simmers underneath and some of the most dramatically tense moments are when Wahlberg brings Taggart to a boil. A particularly effective scene involves Taggart and his actress girlfriend, Natalie (Natalie Martinez). When he's invited to the premiere of an indie movie she's starred in, he expects a slightly suggestive sex scene as she's described it, but he begins to rage as he sits among the crowd only to see a provocative display of sex between his girlfriend and her on-screen partner.

Less believable is a plot line that involves Hostetler's opponent revealing his sexuality as a convoluted set up between a campaign manager and the mayor's wife. One of the few bright spots in this film, however, is newcomer Alona Tal (a regular on the short-lived 2007 TV drama "Cane," but whose bio isn't even in the "Broken City" production notes) who plays Taggart's wisecracking secretary, and is reminiscent of the "doll" sidekicks of nostalgic detective series.

"Broken City" is a movie with a thin plot that feels twice as long as its 109-minute running time. Fans can add this movie to their cache of films in which Wahlberg plays the underdog, but for the rest of us, "Broken City" is a tired retread.