FILM: BROKEN CITY
In a broken city rife with injustice, ex-cop Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) seeks redemption – and revenge – after being double-crossed by the city’s most powerful figure, the mayor (Russell Crowe). Billy’s relentless pursuit of justice, matched only by his streetwise toughness, makes him an unstoppable force – and the mayor’s worst nightmare.
‘Broken City’ protagonist Billy Taggart is one of Mark Wahlberg’s richest screen roles. “The film’s script reminded me of those smart, character-driven crime thrillers that I grew up watching and loving,” says the Oscar-nominated actor.
Billy is an ex-New York City cop who loved his job and did it very well until he went too far while investigating a murder.
Now, he’s a private detective, barely making ends meet, “when a call from the mayor offers an opportunity to regain his badge and gun,” Wahlberg explains. “The mayor thinks his wife is having an affair and he’s worried about it interfering with his chances for re-election.
As Billy starts to investigate, he comes to realize there’s much more to this case than a cheating spouse, and that’s when the war between the mayor and Billy ignites.”
“There is an edge to this story and to the way people speak to each other,” says Russell Crowe, who portrays Mayor Hostetler, a character that projects a powerful mix of charm and menace. “I look to be physically affected by projects I’m considering, and I sort of got goose bumps and started making decisions on behalf of the mayor straightaway while reading the script for ‘Broken City’. It’s a truly grown-up story.”
“The film really respects the audience’s intelligence,” notes Catherine Zeta-Jones, who portrays the mayor’s wife, Cathleen, who is much more than she seems. “It’s smart dialogue moves like a bullet train right through the piece.”
“I read ‘Broken City’ as a kind of contemporary Humphrey Bogart story, taking place against a backdrop of treachery and intrigue where everyone is ambitious in one way or another,” adds Jeffrey Wright, who portrays Commissioner Fairbanks, whose continuing doubts about Billy will change by the end of the latter’s journey.
Brian Tucker’s taut screenplay had an impressive pedigree, having earned a spot on The Black List, an industry clearinghouse for the best, yet-to-be-produced screenplays. “It has a lot of great action, twists and turns, and a dynamic narrative, but more important than that is its characters,” explains director Allen Hughes. “Billy Taggart jumped off the page as being very layered and challenging.”
‘Broken City’ fits squarely within the body of work from Hughes. He and his brother Albert – known professionally as The Hughes Brothers – are renowned for their gritty, no-holds-barred films that place dynamic characters in challenging, if not impossible situations.
Their films include ‘Menace II Society’, ‘Dead Presidents’ and ‘From Hell’. Allen, inspired by Brian Tucker’s screenplay, was eager to make ‘Broken City’ his next project. “Ultimately ‘Broken City’ is a redemption story,” he points out. “Billy will go to any lengths to find justice for something that’s long haunted him.”
CAST: MARK WAHLBERG, RUSSELL CROWE, CATHERINE ZETA-JONES, JEFFREY WRIGHT, BARRY PEPPER, KYLE CHANDLER, NATALIE MARTINEZ
DIRECTOR: ALLEN HUGHES
Private art curator Harry Deane (Colin Firth) devises a finely-crafted scheme to con England’s richest man and avid art collector, Lionel Shabandar, (Alan Rickman) into purchasing a fake Monet painting. In order to bait his buyer, he recruits a Texas rodeo queen (Cameron Diaz) to cross the pond and pose as a woman whose grandfather liberated the painting at the end of WWII.
Directed by Michael Hoffman (‘The Last Station’), ‘Gambit’ is based on a screenplay written by Academy Award winners Joel and Ethan Coen (‘True Grit’, ‘No Country for Old Man’).
“The Coen Brothers’ ‘Gambit’ script is a smart classic comedy, about the clash of cultures,” says director Michael Hoffman. “Harry Deane’s upright, repressed public school boy contrasts utterly with PJ’s absolute lack of self consciousness; his desperation to stay on plan and her refusal to do that. It’s Cary Grant from one golden age of Hollywood meeting Carole Lombard from another.”
Hoffman and producer Mike Lobell were both interested in working with Colin Firth, but foresaw one snag. “We were certain he was about to win the Oscar (for ‘The King’s Speech’),” says Hoffman, “which meant he would be offered everything, but on my birthday a message came to say Colin wanted to meet with me.
One of the first things he said to me was, ‘I really don’t think I want to do a comedy.’ But I flew home, and while I waited for my connection for Boise, Idaho, his agent called to say Colin was in.”
Colin Firth had been aware of the script some time. “There is uniqueness to it, harking back to another era, but not necessarily that of the original film. The conceit of the Coen’s script is similar, but the whole flavour and the characters are different. It made me laugh out loud, and not many comedies come off the page like that.”
CAST: Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz, Alan Rickman, Sir Tom Courtenay, Stanley Tucci, Cloris Leachman
DIRECTOR: Michael Hoffman