Like a lot of film scripts picked up by a studio, Broken City almost never got made. After Mandate Pictures bought it mid-2008, apparently the film languished in "production hell" before a couple of companies developed it mid-2011. Maybe they shouldn't have bothered.

On the strength of its synopsis, this Allen Hughes-directed drama sounds like a cross between recent Richard Gere yawn-fest Arbitrage and the civic-centred season of The Wire. Sadly, it contains none of the sophistication of the latter, instead opting for a convoluted plot and hammy acting by leads Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

Casting Crowe as crooked New York City mayor Nicholas Hostetler seems a sensible move, but Bryan Tucker's ponderous script isn't helpful. As former police detective Billy Taggart, Wahlberg plays the type of character we've seen him inhabit many times.

The slings and arrows and twists of quality drama require a deft touch by director and cast. It's Hughes' first time directing without twin brother Albert (the pair made From Hell and The Book of Eli together, among others) and it could be argued he's bitten off more than he can chew. He certainly struggles to bind the story and his actors' performances into a cohesive, satisfying whole.


On the plus side, the warm relationship depicted between Taggart and his employee, Katy Bradshaw (Alona Tal), lifts the film's tone often enough to give the audience something tangible to connect with.

Stars: 2/5
Cast: Russell Crowe, Mark Wahlberg, Catherine Zeta-Jones
Director: Allen Hughes
Rating: R16
Running time: 108 mins.

Broken City is out now.