Film review: Broken City - Oscars on the mantelpiece don't ignite the fire


Aweek on from the Oscars, it's curious to see Broken City and Arbitrage, two films packed to the gunwales with former Oscar winners and nominees, but which were never in much danger of winning awards themselves. They're B-movies with A-list casts. But as long as you see them as star-studded TV films, rather than prestige projects, both offer their share of guilty pleasure.

The better of the two is Broken City, a hardboiled conspiracy thriller which, give or take the odd mobile phone, could have starred Humphrey Bogart. Its slightly less illustrious leading man is Mark Wahlberg (right), a disgraced ex-cop scraping by as a private eye. His luck seems to be changing when the slimy mayor, Russell Crowe, pays him to spy on his philandering wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones.

It's clear from the opening minutes that Broken City isn't going to be the new LA Confidential, but stick with it and it does eventually lead you down some unexpectedly dark alleyways. The political debates have brains and guts, and the characters have more going on in their lives than you might think. At any rate, its distinguished actors have all starred in far higher profile films which were far less entertaining.

Arbitrage (Nicholas Jarecki, 100 mins, 15, ***) is another workmanlike indie movie which shakes a fist at New York's plutocrats.

Richard Gere stars as a rich-as-Croesus venture capitalist and proud family man – or so it seems to his wife and daughter, Susan Sarandon and Brit Marling. In fact, the investment firm he's due to sell has a half-a-billion-dollar hole in its accounts, and his devotion to home and hearth doesn't stop him nipping away from his own 60th birthday party to meet his mistress, Laetitia Casta. Gere, we gather, is a past master at fooling all of the people all of the time, but one night he makes a mistake which draws the fire of a police detective, played by an amusingly slouchy Tim Roth.

It's always satisfying to watch tycoons getting into difficulties: if they're as charming as Gere, you half-want them to escape, but you don't mind if they suffer first. The problem with Arbitrage (apart from its title) is that Gere doesn't suffer enough. Even when his car crashes and cartwheels down the road, he remains the same self-justifying slickster, his silver hair barely ruffled.

Critic's Choice

London's BFI Southbank begins a retrospective of Pier Paolo Pasolini, the visionary poet and provocateur of Italian cinema, showcasing The Gospel According to St Matthew, from 1964.