Three weeks ahead of its Blu-ray and DVD release, the Mark Wahlberg crime thriller Broken City is now available for purchase as a Fox DHD (Digital High Definition) download. Twentieth Century Fox is heavily promoting this as a means of putting their product into the hands (or more specifically, the computers and mobile devices) of their customers faster than ever. As a physical media diehard, I personally will cling to my Blu-rays and DVDs until there are no machines left to play them on. But having recently viewed Broken City as a DHD download, I have to admit it’s a pretty neat option for those inclined to forgo hard copies.
The flexibility of Fox DHD is a plus, with the film being stored in a digital cloud. This allows for playback on multiple devices, be it your laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Yes, it makes watching movies on the go much easier. I happen to enjoy the ritual of sitting down in front of a large television and watching a movie in its entirety. Take a thriller with as convoluted a plot as Broken City, which was difficult to follow even while devoting my full attention. I guess there are people who prefer to catch a half-hour of a movie on their iPod while on the bus, another 15 minutes while waiting for a prescription, then maybe finishing it up on their lunch break. To each his own, but for me too much convenience and portability can be a detriment.
Directed by Allen Hughes, one half of the Hughes brothers directorial team that stormed onto the scene in 1993 with Menace II Society, Broken City is a mind-numbing thriller about infidelity. Mark Wahlberg, in full-on earnest glowering mode, plays former NYPD detective Billy Taggart. Billy was involved in the death of a 16-year-old who raped and killed his girlfriend’s sister. Captain Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) and Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) conspire to bury evidence that might’ve kept Billy from being acquitted of murder. It comes with a price, however, as Billy is forced into early retirement.
Seven years later, Hostetler hires Billy to investigate an affair his wife, Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones), is involved in. Turns out she’s seeing the campaign manager of a rival mayoral candidate, Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper). I say anyone who actually finds themselves emotionally invested in Broken City at this point should get their money refunded as a reward. The characters are so bland they seem to morph together into one uninteresting whole, especially Russell Crowe and his doppelganger Kyle Chandler (as Paul Andrews, the campaign manager with whom Zeta-Jones is cheating).
There is an interesting subplot involving Natalie (Natalie Martinez), Billy’s actress girlfriend. After attending a premiere screening of Natalie’s big movie, which contains a steamy sex scene, Billy loses his cool and goes on a drunken rampage. It’s a puzzlingly overblown reaction, one that made me wish Broken City had focused more on a broken relationship. All the political machinations between Hostetler and his opponent are far less interesting than the dynamics of this troubled relationship.
As a further benefit of the Fox DHD format, there are a couple supplemental featurettes included with Broken City. “Anatomy of a Thriller” and “A ‘Black-List’ Script” are typical behind-the-scenes pieces, but it’s nice that the download comes with them. The featurette on the screenplay, by Brian Tucker, features director Hughes talking about what a brilliant piece of work it is. I’m not sure how it read in its original form, but if that’s true something definitely got lost along the way.
Broken City releases on Blu-ray and DVD on April 30, so DHD is the way to go for those who don't want to wait. For more in Fox DHD, visit the official website.