Broken City Movie Poster Image

Broken City



Political thriller mixes violence, language, drinking, sex.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 2013
  • Running Time: 109 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The only positive message is that the main character is able to redeem himself by owning up to his wrongdoing and exposing someone else who's committing crimes.

Positive role models

Most of the characters are deeply flawed and even corrupt in some ways. That said, Councilman Valliant seems to be a good guy who truly wants what's best for the city; Andrews wants Valliant to run a campaign on the up and up, rather than resort to mudslinging; Billy's assistant, Katy, is caring and hardworking; and Billy shows that redemption is possible. On the other hand, there's a cop who kills in cold blood, a police commissioner who commits adultery with the mayor's wife, and a mayor who orders people killed. 


The movie begins with a close-up shot of a man who was shot in the head and killed. Another man is shown shot and dead in the street. Two men get into a hand-to-hand fight that ends with one of them beaten/kicked/killed. A husband caresses his wife in a way that's almost menacing. A car chase leads to an accident. A general sense of menace/the potential for explosive reactions.


Through a camera lens, a woman is shown topless, wearing only a thong, on top of a much older man (who's presumably committing adultery). Based on secret meetings and embraces, someone believes the mayor and the opposition's campaign manager are having an affair. In a movie within the movie, a character is shown having sex (she's undressed by her lover and then shown in a sexual position, but the camera focuses on her face).


Very frequent use of words including "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," "douche," "d--k," "p---y," "ass," "damn," "hell," "goddamn," "oh my God," and more. The word "fag" is used a couple of times, as is the word "homo."


A few car brands are visible: Chevy, Honda, and Suburban, and Jameson Whiskey is mentioned a couple of times. The news channel New York 1 is featured a few times.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Almost everyone in the movie seems like an alcoholic. Although Billy refrains for the first half of the movie, he's constantly offered a drink at every meeting he attends and eventually gets incredibly drunk at a bar; when drunk, he's angry, belligerent, and destructive. Other people drink heavily during cocktail parties, meetings, and dinners. When Billy finally drinks again, a character tells him "good for you."

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Broken City is a mature political thriller with lethal violence, strong language, and lots of heavy drinking. Starring Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg, it's the kind of star-studded, testosterone-driven movie that teens might find appealing. But there's some pretty intense violence (including images of gunshot victims and brutal fighting), near-constant swearing (especially "f--k"), alcohol use (Wahlberg's character is a recovering and then lapsed alcoholic), and a couple of sex scenes (one is in a movie within the movie, and the other features a topless woman). The majority of the characters are deeply flawed, compromised, or corrupt, but there is a lesson here about redemption and sacrifice for the greater good. A subplot involves homosexuality; some derogatory terms are used.

What's the story?

As a young New York City detective, Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) shot and killed a suspected rapist. Although he was acquitted, Taggart was commanded by both the mayor (Russell Crowe) and the police commissioner (Jeffrey Wright) to quietly resign from the NYPD, lest new evidence from a witness send him straight to prison. Seven years later, Taggart is a private investigator peeping for jilted spouses. Now up for reelection against a popular young councilman (Barry Pepper), the mayor calls on Taggart for a job: to spy on his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). But all is not as it seems, and Taggart starts to realize that his favor to the mayor had serious strings attached -- and bloody consequences.

Is it any good?


In another movie, with a better script, the combination of Wahlberg, Crowe, Wright, and Pepper might have signaled an Oscar-nominated ensemble. Add in Friday Night Lights star Kyle Chandler as a political do-gooder trying to get his candidate elected to office in a clean campaign, and you'd think BROKEN CITY could offer the kind of delicately balanced depth and action as a Ridley Scott thriller. But instead, director Allen Hughes (working for the first time without his brother/filmmaking partner Albert) and first-time screenwriter Brian Tucker take what begins as a compelling plot device and drop the ball in the third act.

Broken City starts off promising: Taggart didn't kill out of racist spite; he was bringing a rape-and-murder victim's family justice. He's the first in a series of "gray," roguish characters who aren't exactly as they seem (usually they're worse, but in Taggart's case, he's actually a pretty decent guy). Given today's charged economic climate, it's ridiculously easy to figure out the movie's one-percenter villains and to decipher exactly why the Giuliani-eque mayor involved Taggart in his schemes. If only the writing was worthy of such an esteemed (and impressively diverse) cast.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the amount of violence in Broken City. Would the movie be less compelling without it?

  • Broken City has several corrupt characters, particularly those with political standing. Do you think real-life politicians and lawmakers have as many scandalous secrets as Mayor Hostetler and Commissioner Fairbanks?

  • How does the movie portray drinking and alcohol? What are the consequences for Billy of falling off the wagon? Do they seem realistic?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:January 18, 2013
DVD/Streaming release date:April 23, 2013
Cast:Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe
Director:Allen Hughes
Studio:Twentieth Century Fox
Run time:109 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:pervasive language, some sexual content and violence

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Parent Written byShivom Oza January 17, 2013

Broken City (2013) Review by Shivom Oza - Wahlberg's Moment Of Reckoning

New York City finds itself in a pitiable state, as incumbent Mayor Nicholas Hostetler double-crosses and frames an ex-cop-turned-private-detective Billy Taggart, in order to regain his position in the upcoming elections. With the superlative performances by the cast (including stalwarts such as Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones), a powerful, albeit meandering, screenplay, enchanting background music and a fairly engaging plot, 'Broken City' has all the makings of the perfect weekend entertainer. Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) is a former-cop-turned-private-eye. New York City mayoral elections are underway, and the cunning incumbent Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) is willing to do anything to keep his position by beating his rival Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper). According to Nicholas, the people of New York City will elect anybody as the Mayor, but a man who has been cheated on by his partner. He suspects his wife, Cathleen Hostetler, of having an affair with somebody. He hires Billy to take photographs of his wife's partner. Billy's got his own back-story. Seven years ago (before present day in the movie), he had shot dead Mikey Tavarez (Luis Tolentino), a man who raped and killed his girlfriend Natalie Barrow's (Natalie Martinez) younger sister. Now, while Billy gets away from being imprisoned, owing to the intervention of Nicholas, he has to return the favour. Nicholas makes it obligatory for Billy to say yes to his errand, for which he was willing to pay $50,000. Now, there are several twists and turns in the film, most of them being immensely fascinating. It would really spoil your experience if they are revealed. Let's just say that Billy is in for multiple rude shocks, while he goes about this easy-looking task. The story is meandering, but at no point, are you flummoxed to the point of being disinterested. The film manages to engage you throughout its duration. The lovely background score forms a wonderful foil to the thrilling visuals. The dramatic scenes between Billy and Nicholas, Billy and his girlfriend Natalie, and, in particular, the election debate, are excellently played out. The performances by the cast, Russell, Wahlberg and Catherine, are beyond brilliant. Wahlberg, who can be safely termed as the lone protagonist, gives an effortless performance. A bit more humour in his character would have worked perfectly, though. Russell Crowe is brilliant as the conniving mayor and so is Catherine Zeta-Jones, in a short, yet significant role. The supporting cast does a wonderful job as well. The few drawbacks in the film are as follows; unnecessary back-story and not enough reasoning given for the twists. Yes, you could take as many leaps of faith as you wish to, but those looking for a flawless plot will be left a tad disappointed. For a debut feature film, director Allan Hughes has done a marvellous job. The best part about the film was that it has no black-and-white. All characters have shades of grey, and come with their own infirmities. That helps a lot in making the story believable. This film mixes the following genres, Drama, Action and Thriller, perfectly. Don't miss it! Shivom Oza
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 16 years old Written byHeheGonzalo August 16, 2016

My rating: R for language, violence and some sexual content


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