'Broken City': What the Critics Are Saying

Broken City Mayor's Office Crowe Wahlberg - P 2012
20th Century Fox

Broken City Mayor's Office Crowe Wahlberg - P 2012

Allen Hughes' first solo directorial venture stars Mark Wahlberg as an ex-cop out for revenge.

Viewers of Broken City will see Mark Wahlberg as an ex-cop out for revenge and Russell Crowe as the mayor of New York. What they might not see, according to critics, is a satisfying film.

Reviewers have been less than thrilled about Allen Hughes’ solo directorial debut, his first without identical twin brother Albert. While many praise the talented cast and others enjoyed the cinematography, some critics add that Brian Tucker's screenplay might have been the problem and that it may have been a better story told as a period piece.

The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy says, “Broken City tells a sordid tale of big-city corruption that would have made for a fine film noir 60 years ago but feels rather contrived and unbelievable in the setting of contemporary New York.”

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Here’s what some other top critics are saying:

THR’s Todd McCarthy:
Hughes uses an attractive and more-than-capable cast to compel interest in a revenge story involving multiple duplicitous individuals. However, it's never really convincing that the characters would do some of the far-fetched things required of them by the script, resulting in a sense of detachment that is never helpful for a thriller.”

New York Times’ Manohla Dargis:
“The screenplay remains the weak link in Mr. Hughes’ work. But if you don’t listen to the dialogue too hard, if you tune out a bit and instead watch the screen — notice how the restless cameras prowl around the actors and how shards of bright color pierce the pooling black night — then Broken City satisfies like the solid B movie it is … There are not many surprises in Broken City, despite its puddling, sometimes muddling mysteries. This is a story, after all, about power and its abuse in the city, and eight million of these have been told before. Mr. Hughes tells this latest iteration with characteristic technical virtuosity, and while he’s overly fond of circling camera movements, the silky, gyrating choreography of the cinematography does create a sense of a spinning web that works reasonably well.”

Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips:
“For an hour or so, aided by the autumnal glow of Ben Seresin's cinematography, director Hughes maintains a firm handle on the story's turnabouts. Then the script goes a little nuts with coincidence and improbability, and Billy [Wahlberg] turns into an audience surrogate, forced to repeat variations on the line, ‘Will someone tell me what's going on here?’ It's frustrating, because the cast is so natty and ready for action.”

Associated Press’s Christy Lemire:
“For a supposedly great detective, Wahlberg's character always seems sort of startled and one step behind. When Billy finally does fall off the wagon — which is no big shocker, given how much he talks about his sobriety — neither the drinking nor the recovery feels authentic. Crowe is singularly sleazy behind his inconsistent New York accent. And Zeta-Jones, despite being confident and well-coifed at all times, feels underused in a poorly developed (but theoretically pivotal) supporting part. Everyone involved here has made and will make vastly better films. Time to deposit that paycheck and move on.”

Huffington Post’s Marshall Fine:
“Allen Hughes' Broken City has the bones and perhaps even the DNA of a better, darker and more interesting film. Its tale of marital discord and political infighting, as well as corruption and malfeasance, could have been constructed as one of those painfully compelling tales of a good man dealing with rotten doings in his own little world -- and the worry of having that rot rub off on the cleaner. But Hughes … and writer Brian Tucker can't dig far enough to get at anything really gripping or moving here. Instead, this winds up as the same story of one man seeking redemption in a world that has little or no forgiveness.”

The Village Voice’s Scott Foundas:
“Nothing is quite as it seems — unless, of course, you've ever seen a movie about big-city political corruption before — and soon the naive Wahlberg finds himself the magic ingredient in an insidious brew of billion-dollar real estate deals and cold-blooded murder. Almost but not quite silly enough to work as camp — this ex-cop's girlfriend tried to make it as an "indie film" star — Broken City slogs through such fatigued plot 'twists' as having one character confess to another without realizing he's being recorded. The actors look generally unhappy to be here, most of all Crowe, who seems even more miserable than he did in Les Misérables.”

Broken City hits theaters Jan. 18