Broken City: Russell Crowe Seems Miserable to Be Here

Prodigious early success has hung like a sword of Damocles over the careers of twin-brother filmmakers Allen and Albert Hughes, who burst onto the scene like a roman candle with their brilliant 1990 debut, Menace II Society, and then spent the next two decades churning out proficient but ephemeral studio-backed genre films (the best of which, From Hell, brought a sprawling, Altmanesque social panorama to the Jack the Ripper story). Now Allen Hughes has gone solo, and the result is an even bigger letdown: a flaccid, poor man's Chinatown starring Russell Crowe as a New York City mayor campaigning for re-election and Mark Wahlberg as the disgraced ex-cop turned private eye hired to spy on the mayor's adulterous wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Nothing is quite as it seems -- unless, of course, you've ever seen a movie about big-city political corruption before -- and soon the naïve Wahlberg finds himself the magic ingredient in an insidious brew of billion-dollar real-estate deals and coldblooded murder. Almost but not quite silly enough to work as camp -- this ex-cop's girlfriend tries to make it as an "indie film" star -- Broken City slogs through such fatigued plot "twists" as having one character confess to another without realizing he's being recorded. The actors look generally unhappy to be here, most of all Crowe, who seems even more miserable than he did in Les Misérables.


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