Believe it or not, there are actually a few Black movie directors in Hollywood outside of Tyler Perry. They just haven’t been pushing out a high volume of movies over the past decade or so. One of those African-Americans is the director of Broken City named Allen Hughes. He’s been around for about twenty years or so, but he’s only made a couple of appearances in the past ten years.
The name may not be recognizable to a lot of you, and that could be due to the fact that he’s usually been linked to his films which have seen him directing alongside his twin brother Albert throughout his career. Just to name a few, the duo were behind the camera for films like 1993’s Menace II Society, 2001’s From Hell and most recently The Book of Eli. I’d imagine that they’ll be collaborating for more movies in their future, but for now, Allen Hughes is taking this time to fly solo.
In a rare occurence where one of these brothers goes it alone, Allen Hughes introduces us to William J Taggart (Mark Wahlberg), a private investigator with a scandalous past from his days as a police officer. After spending years operating behind the badge, Taggart came face to face with an unfortunate predicament that would defame his name and besmirch the reputation of the already defiled NYPD. This event threw his life into a tale spin which left him with very options and even fewer people willing to offer a helping hand.
After this period in time, the shamed cop moves on to becoming a private investigator. He can utilize some of the skills that he has already obtained from his previous work and mesh it with his new skills to do jobs for hire that require him to perform tasks like spying on people with the potential of finding cheating spouses taking part in extracurricular activities that few significant others would approve of. He doesn’t have many friends in this business, and with the exception of his long-time girlfriend, it looks as if he’s left most of his former life in the rearview mirror.
Out of everyone who Taggart has lost contact with over the past seven years, Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe), knows who he is and remembers how good of a cop he actually was. In the back of his mind, the Mayor with dreams of re-elected to office after the upcoming elections has always kept up with the modern-day sleuth who strolls all around the Big Apple doggedly investigating specific cases. He thinks that Taggart is excellent at what he does, and he may need the set of skills to uncover some potentially damaging evidence against Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the mayor’s wife.
After a reunion of sorts between Taggart and Hostetler, there’s an agreement for an investigation into Katherine’s activities when she goes off on her own. The P.I. digs into his bag of tricks to uncover what may or may not be going on behind the Mayor’s back. While he’s looking for evidence of infidelity, he stumbles onto to something that might be even more explosive. Not only can the results ruin the marriage between the mayor and his wife, but it can also do ungodly amounts of damage to the mayor’s run at re-election, to the life Taggart has known for the last seven years and to anyone close enough to become collateral damage.
The average movie goer will look at a movie like Broken City and anticipate seeing some action, some suspense and some politicking. If they do expect to watch anything like this, then they are correct in their assumption. There’s a good bit of suspense in Broken City, but there’s also quite a few twists and turns peppered throughout all of it. This portion of the film is certainly interesting to watch as you’re trying to figure out what everything means and what connections have already been made between the people we know and the ones we don’t.
The action that’s included in Broken City is probably the film’s second best aspect, but it’s only decent at best in my opinion. I say that because there isn’t as much action as I would have expected coming from a movie like this, and while solid for the most part, some of it just isn’t above average quality.
The weakest point of this Allen Hughes directed cinematic feature actually comes from the acting that’s included. I’m not knocking everyone here; I’m speaking of Catherine Zeta-Jones and to an extent, Mark Wahlberg. Zeta-Jones delivers a very weak and stone faced performance in her role as Cathleen Hostetler. I honestly want to know if she even cared. If you’ve seen enough movies, you’ll know that these performances come up sometime from even some of the best actors in the business. I’m just guessing, but it could be because they don’t like the source material and decide not to try.
Wahlberg’s performance is also lacking in Broken City, but I can’t say that his problems stem from a lack of effort. I happen to believe that this specific character in this role doesn’t truly fit what it is that he does best. His character isn’t a highly personable person and at times, they don’t rely on him to say much or carry a scene emotionally. For those scenes, you need someone who is able to tell a story without being very extroverted. He can do this, but it doesn’t work here for whatever reason.
On the rare occasion when the script does ask for him to actually show some emotion or personality, he doesn’t really deliver there either. A part of that may have to do with the lack of range in his acting abilities, but I think it had more to do with what I saw as a dry and disjointed script. If you exclude all of those “twists and turns” that I previously spoke about, you have a very flat story that seems to move at a snail’s pace. These twists and turns give you somewhat of a jolt of energy as you’re witnessing something that you may find entertaining or amusing.
The people behind Broken City certainly had something with good quality in their hands before they brought to the big screen, but it didn’t translate to video as well as they would have hoped. The writer of the story is actually pretty young and based on what he’s done here, I do believe that there is a strong chance we see improvement from him in the future. If he puts it all together after gaining experience and know how, He should be behind some movies that will be undoubtedly strong and full of substance.
As far as Allen Hughes and the other Black directors out there, I’m hoping we’ll see more from them in the near future. There’s not a ton of diversity in Hollywood, and maybe they can brings some. With me being an aspiring writer/director, I hope that I can be at least a person who adds some variety that can be appreciated. Regardless of race, age, nationality or gender, there are a ton of people with plenty to bring to the game of cinematic entertainment. Maye one day I’ll be one of those people. If not, I’m sure their are others in and around the movie making business who can get the job done. They just need their chance.
Director: Allen Hughes
Film Length: 109 minutes
Release Date: January 18, 2013
Distributor: 20th Century Fox