Reviews: Broken City and Knife Fight

 

The One Man Army and His Foxy Assistant

russell crowe, mark wahlberg, broken city

Broken City
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Natalie Martinez

Rating: **

The trouble with Broken City comes around the halfway mark. You have a private eye who much like JJ Gittes in Chinatown, snoops on cheating spouses and reports back the suspicions. And then, there’s a sinister plot that keeps the protagonist – the private eye – puzzled. Before he can solve it, corpses pile up and he looks at the audience seated in the movie hall for guidance. In Chinatown, screenwriter Robert Towne tackled this issue by having Gittes tag along with the wife of the man he was snooping on. While that works in a fine mystery classic like Chinatown, Broken City is just not up to the mark.

In Broken City, these clues present itself to Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) a former cop who was arrested on charges of murder but released after the intervention of New York City Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Crowe). Seven years down the line, Hostetler hires Taggart with a wry concern that his wife (Zeta Jones) is cheating on him. A motion of deathly events are set off here and Taggart insists on uncovering it. He does this of course by surviving car chases, breaking into houses and with a small amount of shooting.

Taggart doesn’t work alone. He has an assistant, played by Alona Tal, who handles the phone calls and checks on the billings, and at times helps Taggart solve mysteries. The film boasts a star cast that can churn in curious filmgoers but the screenplay kills the pace of the movie and you have to settle with half-eaten broth. When you have Mark Wahlberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Natalie Martinez in a film, you expect fine performances. And maybe, they did their best. But, you won’t realize it due to the sagging screenplay.

rob lowe, knife fight

Knife Fight
Starring: Rob Lowe, Carrie-Anne Moss, Jamie Chung, Richard Schiff
Rating: **

Having heard the title, I perceived Knife Fight to be a full-blown action movie. But, in reality, Knife Fight is a delightful political satire starring Rob Lowe as a spin doctor. Hollywood has seen many spin doctor films in the past few decades. A notable satire being Barry Levinson’s Wag The Dog which united Robert De Niro and Dustin Hoffman onscreen. But, spin doctor films are not purely political. Films like Network or even Jason Reitman’s Thank You For Smoking are fine examples on how spin doctor films work. They take what’s wrong in the industry and make it funny for us to share some healthy laughs.

Knife Fight is set during the preliminary elections where Paul Turner (Lowe) has his hands full backing two major players – Larry Becker (Eric McCormack) and Stephen Green (David Harbour). These two are you standard issue senators. They are honest in front of the camera and pigs in front of young interns and sexy masseuses. And then, there’s the saintly character – played by Carrie-Anne Moss – who wants to join politics to genuinely serve the society. Like the characters in Jay Roach’s comedy, Campaign, the senators in Knife Fight are ready to go to town with anything that moves.

Richard Schiff plays the role of an intel digger who can somehow find almost anything about anyone. While this seems like a tough job for most of us, Schiff coolly sips a margarita in a strip club and downloads confidential health reports of an opposing senator. Rob Lowe’s character does seem to know every move of the media and plans months in advance. Anything he needs is just a call away, or in this case, his assistant, played by Jamie Chung makes the call for him.

The comforting thing about Knife Fight is that the script doesn’t take itself too serious. It harbours over territories and doesn’t dwell any deeper. That way, the film manages to keep itself sane and light-hearted. Knife Fight is indeed a sheer surprise.

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