A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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What 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.
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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.
Talk to your kids 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?
- In theaters: January 18, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: April 23, 2013
- Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe
- Director: Allen Hughes
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive language, some sexual content and violence
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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