Broken City

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Broken City Movie Poster Image
Political thriller mixes violence, language, drinking, sex.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

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 & Representations

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."

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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult 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... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byExiled Universe May 14, 2019

An OK film but mostly boring

When i was going to watch this film i expected it to be an action film like jason bourne or john wick but sadly it wasn't but it still had some pretty cool... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byEthon74 March 18, 2017

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?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action-packed thrillers

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