This is the time of year at the movies that I refer to as the “Dead Zone.” The Dead Zone usually occurs between the second week of January and the second week of March. It’s the dumping grounds for films that the studio did not have faith in at the box office or with the critic’s favor. Sure there are some hits like Taken and The Wedding Singer that came from this time of year, but for the most part they are duds like this week’s Broken City, starring Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe.

If you look at Broken City on paper, it would seem like a movie with great potential. Wahlberg plays Billy Taggart, and ex-cop who was involved in a fatal shooting of a suspect, who Taggart had personal ties with. Although, the shooting is ruled clean thanks to some help from an unscrupulous New York Mayor (Crowe). Seven years later the Mayor asks Taggart, now working as a private investigator, to help him dig up information on his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) during his re-election campaign. Unfortunately, on paper is the only place where the film is good.

Broken City jumps from sub-plot to sub-plot looking for what direction to go next. Does it want to be a political thriller, crime noir, or an action flick? I could have done without Taggart’s actress girlfriend sub-plot that provides nothing to the overall film. Catherine Zeta-Jones’s character ends up being meaningless in the end because of a land deal plot twist that has no punch.

The other problem with Broken City is the acting performances, especially Russell Crowe. Does Crowe think that everyone from New York talks with a lisp and has marbles in their mouths. This was the same voice he provided in Cinderella Man. At one point Crowe was the go-to actor in Hollywood, but his star has faded with some box office flops and poor performances. Even his role in the hit musical Les Miserable has been criticized. Crowe plays the Mayor, as your average cookie cutter political animal who will do anything to protect his legacy. It’s a role we have seen before and Crowe brings nothing new to the table in his portrayal of Mayor Hostetler.

All the Oscar winners and nominees that are in Broken City cannot save the Allen Hughes’ misguided film. There are a few bright spots which include the political rivals to the Mayor, Jack Valliant (played by the underrated Barry Pepper) and the reliable Kyle Chandler as his close confidant and campaign manager. Unfortunately, their storyline is abandoned half way through the film for political double-crossing that goes on in the third act of the movie. Broken City personifies a “Dead Zone” movie release. A movie with a ton of stars and you walk out of the theater and say “I can’t belive they were in that movie.” Overall I give Broken City two potatoes.

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