I don't know about this city, but I thought that a lot of the people behind this project had broken careers. Well, as irony would have it, if this project's talents were't already looking at shaky status, then the final product isn't likely to do them any favors, what with its reception being anything but as rich as I expec... Sorry, but I can't quite finish that statement, because even though this film is decent, being backed by Allen Hughes and a cast that features Russell Crowe, Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, and so on and so forth, it's trailer was just too questionable, largely because it told you that Mark Wahlberg is here. Hey, I like the guy, it's just that he doesn't have the best or, for that matter, most dynamic tastes, which, of course, makes it a relief to see him try something different in this film, in which he's not in Boston, but, instead, New York. Of course, then again, as this film's title will tell you, there are certain slices of New York City that look about as broken as certain slices of Boston, so I reckon my relief is hardly justified, as Wahlberg is hardly as original as he was in... um... 1997's "Boogie Nights"... I guess. Eh, whatever, he's still kind of charming, but forget him, because I'm just glad to see that Russell Crowe might be making his comeback and that Barry Pepper is still alive. Of course, don't expect this film to do all that much in helping keep Crowe's career going, and definately don't expect it to do all that much in helping keep Pepper's career going, for although the film is decent, it's complaints and lack of audience attraction is kind of understandable, because there are some note in this film that need some fixing.
While he's not as strong as he typically is when backed by his brother, Albert, Allen Hughes (What kind of black names are these?) provides moments of intrigue throughout this film as a stand-alone storyteller, but more often than not, he gets to be a bit overambitious and carried away with his noble intentions, never getting the film so overblown that you end up repulsed by self-righteousness, atmosphere has its overbearing moments of lapse in subtlety that are bound to distance you a bit in the while. Whether it's becase they cheese things up a bit or because they simply shake genuineness too much in storytelling, Hughes' overblown moments in storytelling disengage just enough to wear on your patience at times with overambition that would have perhaps been settled down a bit if Hughes didn't have so much material thinness to compensate for. Like Hughes' direction, Brian Tucker's script isn't too messy, and even has its share of high points, yet rarely takes the risks that Hughes' storytelling sometimes takes a bit too thoroughly, thinning out expository depth in characterization and, yes, even plotting. Like I said, there are high points in Tucker's writing, and they almost always pertain to plotting intricacies that reinforce engagement value, but when Tucker makes a mistake, as he all too often does, structural layers thin out into an almost meanderingly repetitious formula that makes its lazy spots all the worse through what might be the final product's biggest issue: genericism. When the film isn't figuring out some form of compensation, for its conventionalism, it's hitting almost laughably familiar tropes, crafting character types and manufactured conflicts that we've seen so often time and again that, by this time, you'd be hard pressed not to see where the worn path is heading. If this film is anything, it's almost shamelessly predictable, being not too much more than just a formulaic and rather thin, when not overambitious piece of wood on the crime-thriller pile. With that said, if you remember nothing else about this film, it's likely to be that it is, in fact, enjoyable, regardless of its many shortcomings and conventions, which are ultimately faught back just enough for a decent final product to emerge, even though certain areas in its concept promises more than just decency.
Okay, maybe this project's story concept doesn't promise a final product that is all that good, because there are certain thin spots and conventions that just can't be washed away from this film that is so heavily driven by hiccups in storytelling, yet the filmmakers' overambition is understandable, as there is some meat to this tale, overexplored though it may be, as reflected by undeniable high notes in the breathing of life into this film's potential, even in the writing departments. Again, Brian Tucker's script is hardly all that strong, being more thin and formulaic than it probably should be, but not so beaten that it falls flat, having just enough decent notes to keep you from falling all that far out, when not unveiling the occasional high note that actually pulls you, especially when it comes to plotting intricacies. Like I said, it's hard not to see where this basic plot is heading, but there are moments in Tucker's story structuring that haven't gotten the appreciation that they deserve as components to complexities that, while sometimes a touch undercooked, if not actually kind of convoluted, are bound to ignite a certain degree of intrigue, augmented by talents outside of the writing department, including the onscreen ones whose skill is challenged only so much by Tucker's often a bit overly safe efforts. There's little in the way of acting material here, but this is still a star-studded cast whose members have earned stardom for a reason, and sure enough, more appreciate needs to be directed as this film's acting department, with Mark Wahlberg being, well, Mark Wahlberg, and by extension, fairly charming, with the occasional strong dramatic note, while such other talents as Kyle Chandler, Jeffrey Wright and Barry Pepper deliver their own strong moments, and Russell Crowe, of course, steals the show and reminds us for the first time in a while of his being one of today's great actors, for although Crowe isn't given the material to be all-out great, he is excellent, with a chillingly effective charisma and subtly layered atmosphere that breathes more genuineness into the honest-seeming, but truly corrupt force of power character type than Brian Tucker's script does, and makes him an antagonist who is arguably more than this film deserves. Crowe is unevenly used, so don't expect to have too much time to enjoy his upstanding efforts, yet his and his fellow cast members' strongest moments really spark engagement value that they consistently, to one degree or another, supplement, much like high spots in the direction department. The film's issues are impossible to deny, yet their thorough emphasis would decidedly be softened if director Allen Hughes didn't pump this project with so much desperate ambition, something that Hughes will, in fact, fulfill at times, not so thoroughly that you can easily forgive the final product's mistakes, but certainly effective enough to replenish your investment and keep you from driftin too far away from things. At the very least, Hughes delivers on entertainment value that isn't exactly rich, and certainly doesn't fully make up for the substance shortcomings in the final product, but still stands as consistent enough to sustain your attention, and often direct it toward the other strengths, which go into making this film decent, in spite of its many flaws.
To piece things back together, Allen Hughes' atmospheric has overblown spells that thin out subtlety, while Brian Tucker's often rather restrained script thins out depth into repetition, while bombarding the film with genericisms that bland the final product up as kind of underwhelming, maybe even kind of forgettable, which isn't to say that you can't enjoy the film while you're in the moments, as there are enough strong performances - especially that of the unevenly used, but ultimately highly effective Russell Crowe - and enough high points in direction and writing to spark the entertainment value that does about as much as anything in making "Broken City" a decent, if fairly flawed and formulaic thriller that keeps you going throughout its course more often than not.
2.5/5 - Fair