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Broken City (iTunes HD Digital Download Review)

Broken City (iTunes HD Digital Download Review)So I’ve heard mixed things about the Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe and Catherine Zeta-Jones 2013 crime thriller, Broken City.  Sadly, I missed the press screening when it was previewed in my area and I altogether missed the theatrical release so needless to say I was thrilled when I recently offered the chance to review the DHD version of it.  For those of you that don’t know, DHD stands for Digital HD, Fox’s early access to newly released blockbuster films you can watch anytime and anywhere weeks before the film’s Blu-ray and DVD release, often with a discounted price of $14.99 or so.  But like I was saying, I accepted the chance to check this movie out in advance before all the Blu-ray and DVD critics get their colloquial paws on their respective review products and be one of the first, the elite, to tackle this one on the World Wide Web.  So without further ado, let’s take a private eye look at Broken City, through the eyes of yours truly…me! 

Broken City (iTunes HD Digital Download Review)

Film 

Broken City was released theatrically in the States on January 18th this year and was directed by Allen Hughes off a screenplay from Brian Tucker.  This was Hughe’s first solo feature film directing project.  Jeffrey Wright and Barry Pepper also star alongside Wahlberg and crew.  No matter the star power in this vehicle, ultimately the movie failed to cover its $35 million dollar budget.  Hmm…I guess word of mouth and negative early reviews got the best of this one and I’ll bet every one of my Cliff Bars in the kitchen cabinet that Fox is hoping to recoup some of their initial expenses here with the movie’s second life in the home video market.  It’s being aggressively marketed.  What do you say?  Will you give it a chance?

At the time of this writing, the film has garnered a score of only 21% on Rotten Tomatoes.  Often, that’s enough to deter me from wanting to see a movie, but hey man…that cast looks stellar.  The user reviews on iTunes are mostly positive.  What gives?  I was determined to find out.  And so I took the plunge into the film to see what’s possibly “broken” in this city.

So what’s this film all about?  Simply put, the star power of Wahlberg, Crowe and Zeta-Jones exist in this crime thriller where everyone seems to have a motive and no one can be trusted.   Sound familiar?  Of course it does, but that’s Hollywood folks.  Everything’s the same story, just rehashed a little bit.  The film starts out with an gunshot and a court trial that we really won’t understand fully until a little later on and then jumps forward a period of seven years where the heart of our story picks up.  And here goes nothing.  It’s a week away from the mayoral election in New York City and private detective Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) is hired by NYC’s mayor (Crowe), the same man who stripped Billy of his police job seven years ago following his murder trial, to follow his wife (Zeta-Jones) and find out who’s she cheating on him with.  However, by the time the mayor reveals his true intentions, Billy is already in too deep and is in the middle of a big doodoo mess. Now, with his freedom, reputation and even his life on the line, Billy has to risk it all to expose the truth and seek justice in a city not really known for its goodness.  Can he help the mayor’s opponent rise to his rightful position, will Billy take the fall for everyone’s deaths or will he hide tail it outta there and save himself?  That’s essentially what this film’s about.  Do you still want to watch it?  Of course you do!

If you look at and examine closely all the critical reviews, there’s pretty much one universal law they all stand true by when discussing this film.  It’s that the script could be better, but the movie is not all that terrible and having the cast names is a big reason to stick around and at least give it a chance.  I feel I’m part of that same crowd.  What initially drawn me to this film, was its A+ cast plus the warm reviews by iTunes users.  In hindsight, I’m not disappointed by the film or left feeling let down.  I just know it could have been better.  There were times when I was watching it where I was like what’s going on here?  The plot and twists are rocket science here, but still I felt left out a couple times.  Oh well.  They can’t all be winners can they?  Of course not!

Ironically, Russell Crowe has never looked younger in my opinion.  He’s his usual charming self here and Marky Mark…well there’s not too much to say about him either…he’s pretty much in his comfort zone here.  If you’ve seen him in one cop movie, you’ve seen him in them all in my opinion…well except for The Departed, but that’s a completely different story and quite simply a masterpiece of a film that we’ll leave out of this comparison for argument’s sake.  The oddball of this group, to me, was Zeta-Jones.  Her character was just a mystery to me and I feel the same way about the girl Bond temporarily fell for in Skyfall.  Actually, with all that makeup, they sort of look the same too.  Actually, I was more intrigued by who the beauty Alona Tai’s character was.  She was Taggart’s assistant, but there seemed to be much more to her, even more so than his love interest, Natalie (Natalie Martinez), than they ever explained.  However, there were many loose ends and things not fully explained so I won’t lose any sleep over it and nor would you.  I just know there was something there between the two, but I could be wrong.  I guess I’ll never know.  However, underneath it all, there’s a greater story than just one central character here in Broken City.  There’s that figuring out what makes each person tick and what are they hiding.  I think the realization and the redemption of Mark’s character is what kept me in the feature here.  So kudos to Brian Tucker for that!

I also read one review that talked about how this film would have stood better as a period piece.  Honest to God, I wholeheartedly believe this. This had the making of being a Chinatown or something special along those lines, but I feel it failed to both compromise with itself and of course deliver.  It wasn’t Jonah Hex awful, but it wasn’t Inception stellar either…hence my middle of the road score, rounded up a bit higher for my love of the cast.  I could easily see this succeeding as an 80’s period piece.  I think that would have been a nice fit for the screenplay to adapt to, but as it stands right now, I think only the fans of this film will give it replay value on whatever media format they own it on.  That’s just my two cents.  However, I will say this, after watching the iTunes Extras (see below), I have a lot more respect for Brian Tucker and I am looking forward to his next writing contributions and looking forward to him growing as a writer.

 Broken City (iTunes HD Digital Download Review)

Video 

I know what you are thinking.  Argh.  Not a 5-point score.  Well first, rest assured, things are not catastrophic here…quite the opposite.  But let’s be honest.  This is a HD DIgital Download and it’s grading scale is a little more aggressive and vastly different in merits compared to its big brother on the eventual Blu-ray release.  The 4.19 GB HD Digital Download holds its own, but there are a few things I can nitpick here or there when comparing it to such other recent HD Digital Download titles such as the recently released The Impossible (reviewed here with a 5-star video rating).  It’s a given, obviously, but there are some areas of compression…mostly in the areas where large chunks of the same colors are found.  That’s to be expected with the medium, but black levels aren’t always the darkest and inkiest either.  While there was nothing visually wrong with the 1080p presentation, it just didn’t pop with crispness and fine detail like The Impossible recently did for me, which rivaled most Blu-ray titles in my opinion.  However, on the plus side, skin tones and colors were all in check and there were no artifacts, blemishes or debris found anywhere throughout the HD DIgital Download viewing experience.  In others words, nothing distracted me other than the story at times from enjoying this first time watch.

 Broken City (iTunes HD Digital Download Review)

Audio 

Like the video section above, things are mostly in check here.  I think things would have been a heck of a lot stellar with this track had it not been for a few scenes where dialog was hard to hear (a pet peeve of mine).  Other than that, this 5.1 Dolby Digital surround track accomplished what it set out to as it brought to life the crime ridden city of New York City, as presented in Broken City.  Wow!  That’s a first for me as I never used the word “city” before three times in a sentence, not to mention four times in a paragraph.  The score craftily sets the brooding and atmospheric elements into motion as the rear speakers are used for filler, chatter and most importantly, things that go bump in the night…aka gun shots!  For the most part, other than the dialog levels at times, I was pretty happy with this one.  However, volume wise, it was a little softer than the other iTunes HD Digital Download titles I have reviewed lately here, but that’s not a complaint, just an observation.  So for all the reasons i just listed, I settled with a score of 4, once again here.  There’s not that will detract from your viewing experience, just a couple of things that I wish were a tad bit better.

 Broken City (iTunes HD Digital Download Review)

Extras 

Compared to most iTunes HD Digital Downloads, Broken City comes to the format with not the increasingly usual one iTunes Extras, but two!  That’s right folks.  It’s time to celebrate good times, come on!  It’s a celebration!  Let’s take a closer examination at the two featurettes you will find here.  And once again, the score is adjusted above in this section simply because we are talking about a Digital Download, not a beefy Blu-ray smorgasbord of supplements, and I for one loved the content of these two featurettes.  Got it?  Maybe one day we will see some more supplements hit these releases.  You hear me?  Fill my hard drive up, iTunes!  LOL.

  • A “Black List” Script (HD, 4:48) – Screenwriter Brian Tucker talks about his love for film noir and detective stories, which led to his creation of this screenplay.  He said he originally sold it to a smaller company at the end of the writer’s strike, but when it didn’t get made it landed on the Black List, which is essentially the best screenplays not made into movies.  And get this folks, this is his first screenplay he ever wrote and was never to LA before.  As a screenwriter, I was fascinated by this feature.  And wow!  Mark Wahlberg took this under his wing as a passion project and was able to help raise the money.
  • Anatomy of a Thriller (HD, 8:13) – The cast and even Brian Tucker talk about what drew them to their respective characters and their love of the story and trying to figure what each character is hiding as the movie goes along.  It’s also interesting to learn more about film noir in this featurette and how nothing was really storyboarded ahead of time, but instead the sequences were created with freshness in mind right on the spot.  Very cool.  I’m thinking about going back and watching this movie again after viewing this extra.

 Broken City (iTunes HD Digital Download Review)

Final 

As opposed to the Blu-ray and DVD releases of the film, Broken City is available to own now on DHD, meaning you can watch it anytime, anywhere!   With Digital HD all it takes is a simple click of a button and you can own and watch movies from the comfort of your own home. You can instantly stream or download Broken City to a variety of devices and with Digital HD your movies will always be available in stunning high quality Hi-Definition picture.  Obviously, as this review indicates, iTunes is my preferred method for my HD Digital Downloads, but you’re certainly free to explore other choices such as Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, etc.  Me…I prefer my iDevices.

If you made it this far in my review, then you have a decision to make.  Don’t you?  Do you take a risk on this one because you love the cast lineup or do you wait to rent it?  That’s a hard one to recommend because for as many negative critical reviews there are out there, there are also a lot of positive user reviews too.  The real question is do you want to wait until the Blu-ray and DVD comes out to be able to rent it in 3 weeks OR do you want it now?  For those of you who want it now…click on the iTunes cover art below and start enjoying it immediately.  If anyone’s interested in the Blu-ray and DVD release, you know what to do.  Have at it!  And I’ll leave you with these final thoughts.  After watching the iTunes Extras listed above, and learning all I could about the feature in only 13 brief minutes, I’m looking forward to watching this again armed with the knowledge I have now.

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Broken City (iTunes HD Digital Download Review)

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Owner/Writer/Reviewer/Editor, Dreamer, Producer, Agent of Love, Film Lover, Writer of Screenplays and a Devoted Apostle to all things Ford Mustangs (the real ones with V8's!). Some of my favorite films include FIGHT CLUB, MOULIN ROUGE, THE DARK KNIGHT, STAR WARS alongside television shows such as SEINFELD, 24, SANFORD & SON and even the often loathed in the geek community BIG BANG THEORY. Outside of my three lives I live I also enjoy spending time with my girlfriend and our three girls (of the furry kind).

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