Broken City

Wahlberg turns away from the corruption of the Broken City.

Wahlberg turns away from the corruption of the Broken City.

(2013) Thriller (20th Century Fox) Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, Alona Tal, Natalie Martinez, Michael Beach, Kyle Chandler, James Ransone, Griffin Dunne, Odessa Sykes, Britney Theriot, Luis Tolentino, Tony Bentley, Andrea Frankle, William Ragsdale, Dana Gourrier, Teri Wyble. Directed by Allen Hughes

Honesty and politics don’t mix in modern America. The rule is that most politicians will do just about anything to win, stopping short of murder. Some don’t even stop there.

Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) is a New York City cop but one with anger issues. When a lowlife who raped and murdered a teen is released on a technicality, he snaps and murders the scumbag in cold blood. Police commissioner Carl Fairbanks (Wright) wants to throw his detective to the woods but then New York City Mayor Hostetler (Crowe) buries the evidence and tells Taggart he’s a hero. However, while Billy won’t be going to jail even the Mayor can’t protect his job under those circumstances.

Seven years later, Billy is working as a private investigator but his business is failing. While his loyal assistant Katy Bradshaw (Tal) hangs in there, Billy knows he can’t survive much longer. However apparently coming to his rescue, Mayor Hostetler comes to Billy with an assignment; to follow Hizzonor’s wife Cathleen (Zeta-Jones) and find out if she’s having an affair or not. The Mayor is in the middle of a vicious campaign for re-election and he can’t afford the hint of a scandal to get out; it’s something his opponent Jack Valliant (Pepper) and his canny manager Paul Andrews (Chandler) would make a great deal of hay from.

Billy is more than happy and grateful to take a paying job, even when it leads to Cathleen’s lover – none other than Paul Andrews himself. But when Andrews turns up dead, Billy realizes he’s in way over his head and that someone in this equation is hiding something, something they’re willing to kill to keep hidden. Not knowing who to trust and fighting his own demons – alcohol and jealousy of his girlfriend (Martinez), an aspiring actress – it’s going to be no easy thing to fix this broken city.

This originally saw the light of day on the Black List of unproduced scripts. Hughes snapped it up and sent it out to some Hollywood A-listers and both Wahlberg and Crowe jumped at the chance to work on the project. The first clue though that things didn’t turn out so well was when the studio scheduled the film to premiere in January 2013. January is the graveyard for movies; few films of any quality surface during the first month of the year when Oscar contenders and Holiday blockbusters take up most of the screens at the multiplex.

But seeing this made me wonder how the script could have wound up on the Black List considering just how poorly written the movie is. Plot points are explored and then abandoned. Holes in logic abound. Dialogue that doesn’t sound like real people talking. And lest we forget, a ludicrous ending.

Fortunately the movie has some pretty good actors who are playing this (mostly) with straight faces. Wahlberg can play this kind of part without working up much of a sweat and yet he gives it his earnest best. Billy is far from lovable but at his core he has a sense of justice – not always an accurate one – that just can’t be denied. For example, when he sees a sex scene his girlfriend filmed for an indie film at the premiere, he is horrified. He simply can’t get past seeing her do those things where everyone can see them. He’s a rumpled knight in dented, rusting armor but he’s also the sort you’d want at your side if you were fighting for a hopeless but just cause.

Crowe also gives the Mayor easy charm and smile on the surface with a crocodile’s teeth just under the facade. It’s a mesmerizing performance and would ordinarily overwhelm someone as blue collar as Wahlberg but the two make a good point/counterpoint sort of chemistry for themselves. Zeta-Jones remains one of the most beautiful women in Hollywood, but she didn’t win that Oscar in a Cracker Jack box; the lady’s got chops and she shows them here in a character study that’s as complex as any in the movie. However, the Israeli actress Tal seems to be having more fun than anyone else in the movie and she is a delight with a future in Hollywood if she keeps getting these sorts of roles.

The action scenes are for the most part forgettable although there are a couple of nifty little set pieces here. This is the kind of mindless fluff that is forgotten as soon as the popcorn is gone but there’s nothing wrong with that sort of movie. I just get the sense that isn’t what the filmmakers had in mind when they undertook this project to begin with.

WHY RENT THIS: Solid performances from terrific cast. Some gritty action sequences.
WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Plot holes and dangling plot points a-plenty. Falls flat overall.
FAMILY VALUES: Plenty of bad language, violent content and a bit of sexuality.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is the first time Hughes directed a film solo; normally he works with his twin brother Albert.
BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $19.7M on a $35M production budget.
SITES TO SEE: Netflix (DVD rental only), Amazon (buy/rent), Vudu (purchase only),  iTunes (buy/rent), Flixster (buy/rent), Target Ticket (Purchase only)
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Clear and Present Danger
NEXT: Forgetting Sarah Marshall


New Releases for the Week of January 18, 2013

The Last Stand


(Lionsgate) Arnold Schwarzenegger, Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Luis Guzman, Jaimie Alexander, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Genesis Rodriguez. Directed by Kim Jee-Woon

The Governator’s first starring role in a decade puts him as a disgraced L.A. cop who now lives a much more peaceful life as sheriff in a small, quiet border town. When a vicious drug cartel kingpin escapes from a convoy taking him to jail, a small army of mercenaries and thugs are insuring that he gets back to Mexico. Unfortunately, their route will take him right through Arnold’s town. Big mistake.

See the trailer, a clip and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Action

Rating: R (for strong bloody violence throughout, and language)

Broken City

(20th Century Fox) Russell Crowe, Mark Wahlberg, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Barry Pepper. A former NYPD cop, stripped of his badge because of a shooting scandal, is hired as a private eye by the popular mayor of Noo Yawk to investigate his wife. However, much more is going on than meets the eye and he finds himself in a fight to bring the truth to light and to keep himself from going to jail.

See the trailer, a clip and a promo here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Thriller

Rating: R (for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence)


(Universal) Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Megan Charpentier, Isabelle Nellise. Two young girls who’d disappeared five years earlier when their mother died are discovered living in the woods, having survived on their own against all odds. They are brought to live with their only surviving relative – their uncle – and his girlfriend. Soon it becomes apparent that they might not have been quite so alone as everybody thought – and that they brought their companion/protector into their uncle’s home. Not so good for Uncle.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Supernatural Horror

Rating: PG-13 (for violence and terror, some disturbing images and thematic elements)

A Royal Affair

(Magnolia) Mads Mikkelsen, Alicia Vikander, Mikkel Boe Folsgaard, Trine Dyrholm.  In the 18th century, King Christian VII was absolute ruler of Denmark and rumor has it, was quite deranged. His Queen embarked on a passionate affair with a German physician, putting the both of them in extreme danger.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Historical Drama

Rating: R (for sexual content and some violent images)

Rust and Bone

(Sony Classics) Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenarts, Bouli Lanners, Celine Sallette. A homeless, friendless and penniless man takes refuge in his sister’s home in the South of France with his five-year-old son who barely knows him. After he gets a job as a nightclub bouncer, he encounters a beautiful whale trainer at the local marine park. When a tragic accident leaves her disabled, the unlikely couple learn to heal each other. Cotillard has received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her work here.

See the trailer and an interview here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Drama

Rating: R (for strong sexual content, brief graphic nudity, some violence and language)

Four-Warned: January 2013

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

4. BROKEN CITY (1.9)

1. STORAGE 24 (1.4)
4. THE PIROGUE (1.8)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

JANUARY 4, 2013

56 UP (First Run) Genre: Documentary. Michael Apted’s groundbreaking documentary series examines the same group of people from age seven every seven years thereafter 49 years until now. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.8 Sure it’s fascinating but do you really want to know this much about these people?
A DARK TRUTH (Magnolia) Genre: Thriller. An ex-CIA agent turned talk show host investigates the cover-up of a massacre in a South American village. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 An impressive cast and a compelling subject matter but trailer looked a little flat.
ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE (Image) Genre: Superhero. Four heroes are robbed of their superpowers by an evil supervillain and must navigate a deadly maze as ordinary people, while the lives of a small town hang in the balance. Release Strategy: Limited RATING: 1.7 A very different-looking superhero movie.
CRAWLSPACE (IFC) Genre: Science Fiction. An elite military group enters a research compound to rescue a science team after an experiment goes awry, only to discover that something far more sinister is going on. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 Seems to be a throwback to 80s horror movies which isn’t entirely a bad thing.
TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D (Lionsgate) Genre: Horror. A young woman brings her friends to the home she recently inherited, not realizing its connection to some gruesome murders committed three decades earlier. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D). RATING: 2.9 Actually a true sequel to the iconic Tobe Hooper horror classic.

JANUARY 11, 2013

A HAUNTED HOUSE (Open Road) Genre: Horror Spoof. Marlon Wayans takes on the Paranormal Activity series as his house and wife appear to be taken over by a mischievous spirit. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.4 Usually these sorts of horror spoofs leave me cold.
FAIRHAVEN (Starz Digital Media) Genre: Drama. A trio of friends in a small New England fishing village reunite for a funeral. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.7 This has kinda been done to death but we’ll see how this one works out.
GANGSTER SQUAD (Warner Brothers) Genre: Crime Drama. The LAPD puts together a small but elite squad to take out mob boss Mickey Cohen – by any means necessary. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.7 A very strong cast made this look interesting; it was deposited into a January slot through no fault of its own.
MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA (FIP) Genre: Bollywood. The arranged marriage of the daughter of a wealthy industrialist sends reverberations through the lives of daughter, father and his right-hand man. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.1 Doesn’t look particularly inspiring from the trailer.
MY BEST ENEMY (IFC) Genre: Drama. A pair of best friends in prewar Vienna are set at odds when one joins the Nazi party and attempts to gain a Michelangelo drawing his friend, a Jew, owns. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.9 Already an award-winning film in Austria.
OFFICER DOWN (Anchor Bay) Genre: Crime Drama. After a crooked cop is saved by a stranger and given a second chance, he is forced to look into a string of assaults on young woman that he had a hand in initiating. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 The trailer looks kinda ordinary although James Woods is in it.
QUARTET (Weinstein) Genre: Comedy. A benefit concert for a home for retired opera singers is disrupted by the arrival of a diva who refuses to sing for the benefit. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.9 Great cast, Dustin Hoffman directing and some very funny British humor; what’s not to like?
STORAGE 24 (Magnet) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. A couple and their friends are in a storage unit when the lights go out and in the maze of corridors they realize something inhuman is stalking them. Release Strategy: Columbus, OH only. RATING: 1.4 Looks like some pretty awesome creature effects here.
STRUCK BY LIGHTNING (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. When a high school student is killed by lightning, we get to experience the last couple of weeks of his life through his own eyes. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Decent cast, a nice idea but looks kinda like a generic high school fish out of water comedy from the trailer.

JANUARY 18, 2013

THE BAYTOWN OUTLAWS (Phase 4) Genre: Action. A woman .whose ex-husband shot her three times in the gut and kidnaps her godson hires three redneck outlaws to set things to rights. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Looks like all kinds of fun.
BROKEN CITY (20th Century Fox) Genre: Thriller. A cop gets set up by a corrupt mayor who doesn’t realize how far the cop will go to clear his name. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.9 Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg are two of my favorite stars at the moment.
THE LAST STAND (Lionsgate) Genre: Action. A Mexican drug lord with a heavily armed escort is broken out of prison and making a run for the border, with a small Texas town and it’s sheriff standing in his way. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 Schwarzenegger is back!
LUV (Indomina) Genre: Drama. An 11-year-old boy spends a day with a beloved uncle, discovering that being a man isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 An all-star cast that includes Common, Danny Glover, Dennis Haysbert and Charles Dutton and a gritty-looking drama makes this one to seek out.
MAMA (Universal) Genre: Horror. Two little girls who disappeared five years earlier are found in a rural cabin and brought to their uncle’s home to be raised, but they brought something else with them. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.8 Looks genuinely creepy.

JANUARY 23, 2013

THE PIROGUE (Artmattan) Genre: Drama. A group of 30 Senegalese men (and a female stowaway) embark on a perilous (and illegal) 7-day journey to Spain in a Pirogue, an oversized dinghy. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.8 Could be a very interesting drama; the trailer is awfully intriguing.

JANUARY 25, 2013

HANSEL AND GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS (Paramount) Genre: Fantasy. 15 years after nearly being cooked to death by a witch, the siblings have become renowned witch hunters who are up against their nastiest opponent yet. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX). RATING: 1.5 Jeremy Renner is big-time hot and it looks like it could be a hoot if it works.
JOHN DIES AT THE END (Magnet) Genre: Sci-Fi Horror. A new designer drug sends users on an out-of-body experience, only to have aliens inhabit their physical forms leaving a couple of slackers left to save humanity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 From horror legend Don Coscarelli, this one played the 2012 Florida Film Festival.
MOVIE 43 (Relativity) Genre: Comedy. A dozen directors and some of the biggest-name actors in Hollywood create an ensemble piece with raunchy, intertwined stories. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Hard to tell from the trailer but did leave it on the “to-do list”.
NOOBZ (Big Air) Genre: Comedy. Four gamer friends head to L.A. for a major gaming championship tournament despite their lives being in flux when they go. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 Looks kind of like standard Hollywood slacker comedy fare.
PARKER (FilmDistrict) Genre: Action. A professional thief, betrayed by his teammates, goes on a vendetta to get what’s his. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.1 Jason Statham in the title role looks cooler than cool.
SUPPORTING CHARACTERS (Tribeca) Genre: Comedy. A pair of friends who are film editors are hired to salvage a botched comedy even as their love lives are turning their heads inside out. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.7 For those who love indie comedies, this one has all the indie vibe you can stand.
YOSSI (Strand) Genre: Drama. An Israeli doctor whose lover died tragically ten years earlier struggles to get out of the shell he’s built around himself. Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles Feb. 1). RATING: 2.4 Looks very melancholy.

Gangster Squad, Broken City, The Last Stand, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Movie 43, Parker