In Allen Hughes’ modern-day noir throwback Broken City, Mark Wahlberg has big problems: he’s a troubled former NYC cop (after a controversial, incendiary shooting years earlier put him in the crosshairs of ambitious police commissioner Geoffrey Wright and seemingly sympathetic mayor Russell Crowe) ekeing out a living as a private eye.
While Wahlberg is skilled (armed with a trusty digital camera) at catching people in compromising positions, he’s in a big financial hole since he’s never heard of collecting some form of advance payment from well-heeled clients- who turn out to be heels. In addition, his relationship with his very attractive, indie-starring girlfriend (Natalie Martinez) has hit a rough patch–partly due to money, and partly due to some lingering, unresolved psychological issues. Needless to say, while immersed in these desperate straits, opportunity comes knocking in the form of his former benefactor, wealthy, venal Mayor Crowe, now running for re-election with troubles of his own, including a possibly straying wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and a questionable financial deal: the $4 billion sale of an affordable housing complex (not unlike NYC’s Stuyvestant Town) to powerful, unscrupulous factions. Mayor Crowe offers Wahlberg $50,000 to trail his wife (well…first things first) and Wahlberg’s acceptance earns him an instant ticket to noir-land, where everything is connected, nothing is as it seems, everyone’s got a secret ….and the only way for a trapped fella like Wahlberg to possibly overcome the demons without is to overcome the demon within.
As scripted by Brian Tucker, Broken City breaks no new noir ground, but is consistently entertaining. The movie deftly creates an atmosphere where everyone can smile and remain a villain. The action sequences (car-chases, fistfights) are well-handled, but the movie gets its real heft from many well-played confrontations involving Wahlberg, Crowe and Wright, and a sequence in which Wahlberg’s down-to-earth man’s man gets to see his girlfriend’s starring role…and is none too pleased with the results. Ms. Jones does well enough to make one wish to see more of her (as in screen time), while Alona Tal steals her scenes as Wahlberg’s gal Friday. In the end, Wahlberg intense turn as the conflicted, conscience-stricken former cop looking for a shot at redemption is the key element that keeps this Broken City together.
If you happen to see Quartet at your local theater (it’s in limited release now), do give it a try. It’s a sweet, lovely, gentle, amusing film by that new director Dustin Hoffman (his first solo endeavor). Ronald Harwood’s adaptation (of his own play) is set in a sunny retirement home for musicians, which nevertheless has some financial troubles, and is dependent on the proceeds of their annual benefit Verdi concert. Tom Courtenay, Billy Connolly, and Pauline Collins are among the longtime habitués, while Maggie Smith (my, she’s a busy one) is the new resident whose arrival throws the community into a tizzy. Quartet is a warm, funny, touching movie of what old age ought to be, wherein characters bravely, and at times amusingly confront the infirmities of aging…while acknowledging that life still has possibilities for growth-and even forgiveness. Hoffman manages to elicit stellar performances from the whole cast: Billy Connolly is terrific as a good-natured roué, while Maggie Smith is her usual commanding self as a former opera star battling insecurity; however Tom Courtenay is superb as a man trying to remain culturally relevant while trying to mend the remnants of a broken heart (courtesy of Ms. Smith). It’s a finely-tuned portrait in a beautifully played film.