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Broken City Review Critics


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Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 3.0

    out of 100

    Mixed or average reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 30

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    The only reason to see this dreary parade of deception and venality is Mark Wahlberg's performance as a disgraced ex-cop caught up in the thick of menacing events he can't understand. It's striking how this tightly focused actor can find his own firmly grounded reality in the falsest of surroundings.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    It tries to be a moody thriller, but cliched dialogue and too many coincidences make for a predictable and hackneyed film.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy

    Would have made for a fine film noir 60 years ago but feels rather contrived and unbelievable in the setting of contemporary New York.

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  • 67

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    The truth is that we're way past being outraged by these sorts of Crimes of the One Percent, not because they don't happen, but because the real version is so much more interesting.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Pause for kids 16 & under

Political thriller mixes violence, language, drinking, sex.

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.

  • 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?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    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.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: 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.

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: 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.

  • sex false4

    Sex: 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).

  • language false4

    Language: 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."

  • consumerism false2

    Consumerism: 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.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false4

    Drinking, drugs and 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."