The damaged metropolis at the heart of Allen Hughes’ neo-noir Broken City is New York, but you won’t find very much flavor or texture of the Big Apple within the confines of this film. Despite three weeks of location shooting there, the movie seems rather generic, one of those crime thrillers where things aren’t what they seem for a large portion of the movie. But once the revelations are made known, they’re not the kind of immense shockers that something like Chinatown offered. This is far more mundane. Despite a fine cast, the movie doesn’t make the most of its potential.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish
Run Time: 1 Hr. 49 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraVioletkeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer), DVD-9 (dual layer)
Release Date: 04/30/2013
Called by New York mayor Nicolas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) to investigate his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who may be having an adulterous liaison, former NYPD detective-turned-private investigator Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) finds what appears to be an affair in the offing with the campaign manager (Kyle Chandler) of his mayoral opponent in the upcoming election Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper). Billy is cautioned by Mrs. Hostetler not to take things on face value, but the mayor grabs Billy’s pictures and pays him the agreed upon fee of $50,000 to bring the investigation to an end. That night, when the campaign manager is found shot dead in the street, Billy realizes that there is more to the story than he has realized and begins trying to learn the truth of what actually binds all of these people together.
The Production Rating: 3/5
Brian Tucker’s script is desperately attempting to be a labyrinthine puzzle for the audience, but the writing isn’t as clever or as intricate as the best such mystery conundrums, and the resolution when finally revealed falls embarrassingly flat. In the film’s first half, there are quite a number of offhanded references to gays, and though all of that innuendo does have a payoff, it’s small and unremarkable and not really related to the bigger (more disappointing) mystery of the corrupt mayor’s real intentions. The movie’s pre-title sequence gives a bit too much away in the early going (if we’re meant to be astonished by a late-film reversal by a major character), and other major characters are simply not developed complexly enough for us to care about their eventual fates. Allen Hughes hasn’t shown much style in directing the movie not playing up the enigmatic shadows of its noirish tone very much even if there is one rather brief chase sequence that has the expected momentary tension and a debate scene between the two mayoral candidates that’s firing on all cylinders and is the best thing in the movie.
Nominally the film’s lead (and one of the producers of the movie), Mark Wahlberg does decently enough with his lunk-headed cop-turned-private eye, but he’s outflanked and outshined every time he shares a scene with Russell Crowe as the cocky and charismatic New York mayor, Jeffrey Wright as the soft spoken but calculating commissioner of police, and even Alona Tal as Katy, his plucky Girl Friday/secretary, probably the most appealing character in the picture. Catherine Zeta-Jones is stylish enough to skate by as the inscrutable woman of mystery in the film’s first half though her role fades in importance as the film runs. Kyle Chandler has only a couple of scenes to establish his character as the driven campaign manager, but he’s superb every time he’s on camera. Barry Pepper lacks a little pizzazz as the city councilman trying to unseat the incumbent mayor though he makes the most of that fantastic debate scene. Natalie Martinez is merely okay as Billy’s actress girl friend inhabiting a world that makes him more than a little uncomfortable.
The film was shot digitally and is framed at 2.40:1 for this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Contrast and sharpness are inconsistent during the film with scenes that are sometimes eye-catching and others that are a little murky and indistinct. Color is generally well handled though it can occasionally appear plugged up and somewhat unnatural. Black levels are good but don’t reach the depths that would give the picture that extra bit of zing. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix can often be very effective but again the utilization of the entire soundstage is only a sometimes thing. There is always effective spread across the front soundstage, but the use of the rears is less effective with occasional split effects and pans but often strangely silent, odd for a film taking place often in New York City’s busy nighttime environs. Dialogue has been nicely recorded and has been placed in the center channel. The music by Atticus Ross, Claudia Sarne and Leo Ross seems more attuned to the screen channels with only slight spillage into the rears.
Audio Rating: 4/5
Six Deleted Scenes (8:35, HD): may be viewed with a “Play All” feature or individually. Among these scenes is a (very weak) alternate ending.
Special Features Rating: 2.5/5
Putting It All Together (34:59, HD): seven featurettes which allow director Allen Hughes, writer Brian Tucker, costume designer Betsy Heimann, editor Cindy Mollo, and director of photography Ben Seresin as well as stars Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Jeffrey Wright, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Barry Pepper, and Alona Tal a chance to talk about aspects of the script and film that impressed them. The segments can also be viewed individually.
Theatrical Trailer (2:19, HD)
Promo Trailers (HD): The East, A Good Day to Die Hard, The Marine 3, and Fox’s 3D Blu-ray releases.
Broken City is a barely agreeable film noir that doesn’t do all it could have done with an exceptional cast or its corrupt New York City-set story. The Blu-ray release features above average audio and video but will likely be a rental for all but its most devoted fans.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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