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In a broken city rife with injustice, ex-cop Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) seeks redemption – and revenge – after being double-crossed by the city’s most powerful figure, the mayor (Russell Crowe). Billy’s relentless pursuit of justice, matched only by his streetwise toughness, makes him an unstoppable force – and the mayor’s worst nightmare.
‘Broken City’ protagonist Billy Taggart is one of Mark Wahlberg’s richest screen roles. “The film’s script reminded me of those smart, character-driven crime thrillers that I grew up watching and loving,” says the Oscar-nominated actor.
Billy is an ex-New York City cop who loved his job and did it very well until he went too far while investigating a murder. Now, he’s a private detective, barely making ends meet, “when a call from the mayor offers an opportunity to regain his badge and gun,” Wahlberg explains. “The mayor thinks his wife is having an affair and he’s worried about it interfering with his chances for reelection. As Billy starts to investigate, he comes to realize there’s much more to this case than a cheating spouse, and that’s when the war between the mayor and Billy ignites.” It is this war that leads Billy to redemption.
“There is an edge to this story and to the way people speak to each other,” says Russell Crowe, who portrays Mayor Hostetler, a character that projects a powerful mix of charm and menace. “I look to be physically affected by projects I’m considering, and I sort of got goose bumps and started making decisions on behalf of the mayor straightaway while reading the script for ‘Broken City’. It’s a truly grown-up story.”
“The film really respects the audience’s intelligence,” notes Catherine Zeta-Jones, who portrays the mayor’s wife, Cathleen, who is much more than she seems. “Its smart dialogue moves like a bullet train right through the piece.”
“I read ‘Broken City’ as a kind of contemporary Humphrey Bogart story, taking place against a backdrop of treachery and intrigue where everyone is ambitious in one way or another,” adds Jeffrey Wright, who portrays Commissioner Fairbanks, whose continuing doubts about Billy will change by the end of the latter’s journey.
Brian Tucker’s taut screenplay had an impressive pedigree, having earned a spot on The Black List, an industry clearinghouse for the best, yet-to-be-produced screenplays. “It has a lot of great action, twists and turns, and a dynamic narrative, but more important than that is its characters,” explains director Allen Hughes. “Billy Taggart jumped off the page as being very layered and challenging.”
‘Broken City’ fits squarely within the impressive body of work from Hughes. He and his brother Albert – known professionally as The Hughes Brothers – are renowned for their gritty, no-holds-barred films that place dynamic characters in challenging, if not impossible situations. Their films include ‘Menace II Society’, ‘Dead Presidents’ and ‘From Hell’. Allen, inspired by Brian Tucker’s screenplay, was eager to make ‘Broken City’ his next project. “Ultimately ‘Broken City’ is a redemption story,” he points out. “Billy will go to any lengths to find justice for something that’s long haunted him.”
Hughes was more than surprised when the creator of these powerful and complex characters turned out to be very different from what he expected. “I was blown away when Brian, this scrawny 25-year-old kid walked in for our meeting. I could not believe that this young man, who looked barely 19, had written such a sophisticated, compelling, and layered story.”
Producer Randall Emmett shared the actors’ and Hughes’ passion for the story and characters. “I’ve always loved films about the underdog who stands up to the system,” says Emmett, who is partnered with George Furla (one of ‘Broken City’s executive producers) in the prolific production company Emmett/Furla Films. “I was really excited by the fact that you never know where the story is going.”
‘Broken City’ is out in theaters in the US now.