Film Diary: Broken City (2013)

Broken City.

It is Chinatown minus the mystery and spookiness. Rich people, in cahoots with New York’s slimy mayor Nicholas (Russell Crowe, who is always first class as a baddie), want to bring down a housing project and build skyscrapers on the plot. But some people want to stop him, including the babyface (played by Barry Pepper, a most dependable character actor) who is Nicholas’s opposition in the forthcoming mayoral elections.

So Nicholas hires Billy (Mark Wahlberg) a cop-turned-private eye to do some dirty business for him. Except Billy does not know that Nicholas is a dick and is playing him. The Billy character is what Wahlberg can always play with ease; tough-as-nails, conservative, working class white man who would definitely vote for Trump. Just this time, he is in Brooklyn, not Boston.

The screenplay creates a seemingly tight, complicated knot that promises a blockbuster payoff but after the halfway mark, we realise that things only seemed mysterious because the audience’s eye is Billy and Billy is stupid. The second half of the film unties the knots in the most painfully formulaic manner possible. Plus, Billy’s contrived character transformation from a small-time sleuth for hire to a working class hero with a conscience is laughable. And that is a shame. Because we hardly get such mid-budget, urban noir films from studios these days. If Broken City is consistently watchable, it is because of Crowe whose sliminess you could cut into with a butter knife.