31 December 2013 | secondtake
Unconvincing stuff, but well made it seemed to me
Broken City (2013)
A familiar zone that gets freshened up with a fast plot, some great acting, and a series of twists that never ends.
At first this seems to be a cop story, then a cop story involving the mayor as he runs for office. The mayor is played with such conviction and charm by Russell Crowe you end up rooting for him even as the plot clearly turns against him. But more important is the cop, vilified and with dubious ethics, played by Mark . He's tough, easily duped, and eventually principled—depending on what your principles are.
Beyond the plot (which I'll get to) and the clashing of big personalities (which works), what makes this movie tick is how well it's made. Those prosaic things like editing and photography really meld and take on a force that sucks you in without exaggeration or affectation. It's a straight ahead film in many ways, but invested with intensity and solidity enough to make it really commanding, despite some holes in the plot.
Why the unfavorable response by so many? This might be helpful before diving in. The key is some kind of believability. Wahlberg plays a troubled cop in a troubled relationship (which is a cliché of these kinds of movies), and then becomes a low level detective taking sneaky pictures of adulterous situations. And as a photography myself I have to say this part of the movie is rotten stupid—the way he hides is one thing (bad) but the way he uses his camera is just silly. And getting results (which we are told about later) that are impossible given what we were shown earlier.
Then there is the motivation behind it al, which I can't reveal (and which won't be clear until the end, if even quite then). Since the movie has no real tricks up its sleeve, it depends on a convincing series of events, which it doesn't quite have. The events taken one by one are bold and well done, sometimes very well done, but they don't quite accelerate into a coherent, gripping plot.
For those who watch movies for what happens (the action, the plot), this will be a struggle. But if you also get into the ambiance, the acting, and the visuals, you might give it a shot. I watched it straight through and was interested all along. Maybe I kept holding out hope that it would gel by the end (it does not), but if that's what it takes to watch it, give that a try!