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When a film purports to have a powerful secret—and then, after almost two hours, produces a “big reveal” that’s no big deal, it’s pretty disheartening.  That’s how I felt at the end of Broken City, a needlessly long, ill-conceived film about corruption at the highest level of New York City politics.

Mark Wahlberg plays a cop who is used, then discarded, by the Mayor (Russell Crowe) and Police Commissioner (Jeffrey Wright). Seven years later, working as a low-end private eye, he gets a call from that same slick, glad-handing mayor asking him to investigate his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who’s supposedly having an affair. Something isn’t kosher about all of this, but Wahlberg can’t put his finger on it.

What can you say about a story that takes so long to unfold but doesn’t take the time to flesh out its characters? These people are strictly cardboard, and some of them (like Wahlberg’s wife, played by Natalie Martinez, whose work as an actress makes him jealous) are ciphers. There’s a certain novelty value in watching Crowe, with a curious hairstyle, playing a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker, but it wears off fairly soon.

As for the “secret” carrot that’s repeatedly dangled in front of us, screenwriter Brian Tucker and director Allen Hughes seem to think it’s a powerhouse. I beg to differ. Broken City is a waste of time and talent…an all-too-typical big studio January release.

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