They should have called it Broken Story.
They had all of the right pieces, too, or enough of them to make it work, if they had really wanted to, they could have made a classic, instead of a throwaway, a mashup, cashing in on the bored January crowd at the movies.
“Kid this ain’t your night …”
They took a dive for the short money. In a year or two nobody will remember this movie was even made. It won’t have its own Quizzo question. It won’t even be a bad guess to a Quizzo question.
Just another one of those entries on somebody’s filmography that makes you stop, and say, “What was that?” “Oh“ “No wonder I never heard of it.”
It didn’t have to be like this.
Russell Crowe was so perfectly cast as the New York Irish reincarnation of Huey Long, you’d think they’d run him for real, maybe someplace more obviously corrupt. Chicago. He’s trimmed down, too, back to looking like a tough guy. Maybe not a Kung Fu fighter, or someone you’d have ziplining out of a helicopter with a Squad Automatic Weapon, but tough. Like a cop who still beats the crap out of the occasional pimp, just to keep his hands from getting soft. Not like somebody who spent the last ten years getting up two hours early to make the donuts.
Mark Wahlberg did his thing. He is no longer part of the Funky Bunch. He is now the guy you go to when you need somebody to look really pissed off and throw a crackhead through a plate glass window. (Actually, he always was that guy, it just didn’t get filmed as often in his Funky Bunch and pre-Funky Bunch days. If the world had only had smart phones and YouTube back then…). But I digress.
Someone knows something, he’s too drunk or too scared or too stupid to talk. Get Wahlberg. He’ll water-board the fucker, he doesn’t care.
Some street-slap lowlife raped and murdered your sister, you need him gunned down. Mr. Wahlberg will make that happen. Con mucho gusto.
They need to do a literate, full production remake of Death Wish and give it to this guy.
But Wahlberg and Crowe couldn’t save the movie.
Nor could Catherine Zeta Jones, though she has definitely hit a personal milestone here in her career transition from unlikeable love interest to indignant sociopath. To those who say such people can’t really be indignant, I give them this performance: if even a sociopath, or a sociopathic bitch, to be more precise, ever really burned with the indignant zeal of the righteous, it was Catherine Zeta Jones in this movie.
And the Dialogue; the Dialogue needs to have a movie of its own, one that has nothing to do with this story. We should start a Kickstarter campaign to have Tom Cruise reprise his character from Rock of Ages, and give him some of the Dialogue, in something otherwise written, produced and directed by people who had nothing to do with either film. Let’s give Stacee Jaxx and the Dialogue a place of their own, somewhere they belong.
Sharp, smart, even subversive, in its way, which is the only way that works, cutting against expectations. Neither Crowe nor Wahlberg would react to the currently fashionable agenda with anything but contempt. So that’s how they react.
The type of dialogue that people think of when they say a movie was well written. Not Double Indemnity, or The Departed, of course, but good enough, the type of writing the typical screenwriter can’t do, because he doesn’t have the talent, or won’t do, because he’s too prissy or doesn’t want to risk landing on some Hollywood queen’s Do Not Hire list.
But that couldn’t save it either.
Nor could the cinematography, or the music. The atmosphere was close enough to what they needed. I mean, I would have preferred more grime, razor wire, burned out cars on blocks, with everything tagged but the winos and the broken glass… hell, tag the winos too… but that’s me. I’ve always thought of New York like that. (I don’t think of New York as having, say, mime gangs. But if you’re going to do All his Honor’s Men, you should at least work in some rats, with the menacing music and the hired guns, maybe have them gnawing on a junkie. Local color.)
No, all of that was fine. Not Taxi Driver, but good enough. Every movie can’t be Taxi Driver.
But it made no sense.
And not in the way a David Lynch movie makes no sense, because it’s trying to say something about the incomprehensibility of life in the world.
No, it was just stupid. Muddled, bad, lazy writing. Nobody thought it through, they never asked the hard questions:
Would an actual person do that?
Anybody could look this up in under a minute online for free… Why would somebody kill to keep it quiet? It’s not quiet now! Isn’t that like killing someone to keep him from showing the world the deed to your condo?
I have no memory whatsoever of writing any of this, nobody does, maybe somebody should read it, once, before we throw it over the wall and go do that thing for the SyFy channel…
It was like the producer found a few unrelated story outlines in the trash at Alcoholics Anonymous and said to himself, This is My Movie! Why should I pay some guy to come up with this stuff? Who threw these out, they’re fine; get Deborah to type them up, move some pieces around, I don’t know, put it in order, a few find replaces, maybe hire some loser to do the dialogue once we start shooting. No, fuck that. They can just make it up. They’re all playing themselves anyway. Tell them to go out there and talk. Be natural. As long as Crowe or Wahlberg don’t actually beat somebody to death, we’re good.
The story was so bad it is impossible to watch more than once without being intoxicated or so distracted that you’re not watching it at all, you’re just in the room while it’s on.
It was one of those movies they start to make thinking they’ll do something Important, Win some Awards, then abandon halfway through, because, after all, it’s Costing Us Money. So Theme triumphs over Plot and Character, to the extent that Plot becomes farcical and Characters degenerate into script puppets, herking and jerking along to Make the Point of some hack who moralizes with a bullhorn. But even Theme never develops beyond the level of an Occupy slogan, and it ends up playing like the grand collaborative product of some State U op-ed writers, checking off the right boxes, to get that big shot at publishing unpaid blog entries on the Huffington Post.
Broken Story is about Corruption, the Biggest City kind, billions worth, and features all of the suspects that should have become usual enough to anyone with the stomach for an episode of Law and Order: the Big, Evil Corporate Land Developer, his Crony, the Crooked Irish politician, along with the other character types we’ve come to expect from Modern Morality Plays, the aggrieved, crusading Wife, the “idealistic” (read: weak, resentful and treacherous) son, the angry cop (or ex-cop, as here), determined to bring the system down, the Honest Liberal Politician (after all these years, he’s back!); we even have the Angry, though apparently Upright enough, Black police commissioner, who hates the Politician out of Moral Pique, and thus conspires with the others to Expose him, and, as we are supposed to have it, let Justice prevail.
But their hearts aren’t really in this TV hack work, so they try to make it more interesting, and that’s why the movie is a frustrating waste, worth talking about; not some NBC special put together over the weekend to sell Viagra.
We begin in an intriguing moral grey area, not some shrieky SPLC scripted movie of the week. Wahlberg guns down a criminal, for vengeance, and dresses it up to look like self defense. Crowe protects him, concealing evidence that would guarantee his conviction; par self-interest, and in part because he thinks the killing was justified. Nobody cries for the victim, a rapist murderer, not Wahlberg or Crowe, only the mob, and if you’re on their side, you may as well be one of the criminals. (The protestors are presented as a mass of the same filthy, chanting, hoodlums, degenerates and lunatics you would see clenching their fists at a rally for Mumia abu-Jamal. They do have the Upright Commissioner on their side, but he is hardly the moral voice of the film.)
Crowe is popular and effective. Most importantly, he doesn’t suffer from hypocrisy, the lazy writer’s usual vice. No, Crowe honestly respects Wahlberg, and applauds his actions, even if he is willing to use them for his own purposes later. “You, in my eyes, a hero.”
We move forward seven years, and Wahlberg is an ex -cop, turned private investigator, who peeps through windows with a camera for a living. The Mayor is in a dead heat against John Lindsay, back from the dead, this time as a (closeted) homosexual… an effete, stern, liberal plutocrat, fighting, as it were, in the name of the People, against the populist, working class, Irish politician, to Do What is Right. The story is already heaving and gasping at this point, being slowly ground down under the weight of Theme and Agenda, burdens that will build as it stumbles along, and mash it into pulp long before we reach the end.
The Lindsay character, or rather the idea of New Lindsay speaking for the People, in modern Left Homosexual form, is one of the movies many absurdities. The whole thing plays like the product of a Committee, with the talented members given occasional latitude to undercut the hacks, in a constant, ultimately failed struggle to create something more than a propaganda vehicle that makes money.
Lindsay will probably be no more recognized by the public here than Huey Long; of course, the real Lindsay presided over New York’s catastrophic transformation from the world of the Apartment, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s… to the dystopian nightmare of Death Wish. To present such a man as the Hope for the Future, against the forces of Crony Capitalism and Exploitation…
And on it slides, faster, from the absurd to the insufferable, with the entry of Mrs. Mayor, the Puritan Adulteress, the new Face of the Good and the True, Ms. Zeta Jones. They dragged her out to give a Sermon! In Triumph! About Equality! And Freedom, to Love Whomever We Choose! Standing with a great Banner behind her, the width and height of the stage, for, of all things, the Human Rights Campaign! Not some clever stand in, no, they had to use the Thing Itself. That’s How Important it was that we Get the Message!
In a different era, it would have been a cross, or a Red Star, in our time, we have that yellow equals sign.
The Pure and the True always have one of those things on the back of their Priuses, usually somewhere close to a big O.
Of course, Crowe is nowhere to be seen. If the woman wants to have her Own Private Idaho, that is very much her place, not his. He does not appear to favor the Freedom to Love Whomever We Choose.
He hires Wahlberg, as it is said, to investigate his wife’s adultery, since that’s the sort of thing Wahlberg does now.
While Crowe doesn’t seem to believe, per se, in her adultery, which is real, he does believe in her disloyalty, which is even more real; the core of the film, the rock upon which the whole story shatters.
Wahlberg doesn’t care for the Freedom to Love Whomever We Choose either, one of the many things, personality, principles, worldview, that make him a natural ally of Crowe. They read the New York Post, like the rest of New York, not the Times, like the metrosexual, transnational elite at the Human Rights Campaign.
From here the story gets… confused, slipshod… jerks and grunts… it doesn’t know what to do with itself. Somebody wanted it to be Chinatown, someone wanted And Justice for All… there must have been a few votes on the Committee for All the Kings Men, and there were always the Milk people hanging around, wanting, what, Brokeback City? (No, that’s just backdrop, morality posing, a distraction…).
At the end we are left with Crowe trying to thwart… his wife’s effort to receive information passed by his opponent’s (gay) campaign manager (her co-conspirator, not her lover!) from his Evil Developer Crony’s (ungrateful, indignant, disloyal) loser son, that would reveal, and expose… Crowe’s co-ownership of a corporation… something anybody would have been able to look up in the public record, something she would have seen in any tax return he filed. It wasn’t even buried behind a shell. His name was on the articles of incorporation.
The “scandal” is not even about the self dealing, which is cartoonish here, as the Mayor conspiring with a Developer to tear down a… massive public housing project… while simultaneously wiping out the city’s debt…
God forbid they tear down that project and put in office buildings.
We are supposed to just all go along with the idea that this would be a Bad Thing, the projects they show are a, somewhat, Happy Place, full of noble aspiring poor, more or less, not the teeming havens of criminality and parasitism such places actually are, in the non-Movie world… I suspect the people who actually suffer the consequences of these Mega-Projects being dumped in their neighborhoods would cheer if some mayor wanted to sell them all and demolish them… while the very elites represented by Catherine Zeta Jones, the Candidate, the Developer’s Son, the people who put the projects there to begin with… looked out in smug self congratulation from their Upper East Side terraces, Fighting the Good Fight to keep them there (and far away from their own homes)…
And why does Marc Wahlberg even care about any of this? Why the rage, the vendetta?
Crowe manipulated him into taking pictures that revealed his wife’s Source, of, the public information that she somehow suspected, but couldn’t prove, and wanted so desperately to expose. (Let’s leave aside the fact that this Source was his opponent’s campaign manager, who had to feed this information to the mayor’s wife, rather than, say, using it in the campaign… because that would be negative…) Oh, and the Mayor was blackmailing Wahlberg with concealed evidence about his vengeance killing, though (as perhaps our writing Committee didn’t understand), he had already been prosecuted for that crime, and cleared, so he couldn’t have been prosecuted again, making the evidence meaningless (Double Jeopardy, prohibited by the Fifth Amendment long before it became a game show concept).
That’s it, really.
Did the Mayor’s wife not know who Russell Crowe was when she married him?
Nothing indicates that he ever changed.
So, did Marc Wahlberg really care about the suffering Poor of the Projects? Tedious complications with his improbable, estranged, giftless wife notwithstanding, we have no reason to believe he did. He was just Angry that the Mayor hired him under false pretenses, and he delivered pictures about one thing thinking they were about something else.
There is more, but none of it matters, it only bloated the movie while making it more ridiculous.
Hack work. It would be fun to see a follow up with the Great Liberal Opponent running the city into the ground, but stories that real are strictly for comic book movies.
Well, these are fundamental questions. While I think technology can be used in some ways to transcend innate human limitations (generally genetically defined), I don’t think humans (as individuals or a species) can be made perfect, or should be.
I don’t think machines have any intelligence at all, they just use complex algorithms and increasingly high levels of computation/data processing power to mimic intelligence; aeroplanes fly, and are not birds, submarines swim and are not fish, computers “speak” interactively, drive cars, whatever, and are not people. They have no consciousness; they lack the volitional intelligence of a cockroach.
For machines to mimic life effectively in the future, they’ll have to have some sort of cretinization built into their speech patterns; not just profanity, but grammatical mistakes, moronic acronyms, spelling errors… the children of the future (hell, the children of right now!) will simply not understand correct English (having grown up immersed in technology that so simplifies the cognitive demands of daily life as to reduce everything to a level accessible to any mouth breather who can tap tap tap on a rectangle).
I always find these kinds of statements strange:
Why? We have found no life at all, anywhere, but Earth, nor do we have the slightest evidence of life existing anywhere else.