If it ain’t Broken, don’t fix it!
Based on Daniel Clay’s cult 2009 novel, coming-of-age drama Broken (StudioCanal) paints a gripping, disturbing picture of ‘Broken Britain’.
The film is experienced through the eyes of precocious 11-year-old Skunk (Eloise Laurence), who has a unique vantage point over her increasingly toxic cul-de-sac. Indeed, at the outset of the film she witnesses a brutal assault by hot-headed Bob Oswald (Rory Kinnear, Black Mirror) on Rick Buckley (Robert Emms, War Horse), an awkward neighbourhood youngster with unspecified mental issues that his parents are reluctant to confront -an act of violence which sets the tone for what follows. Despite enjoying a happy, if unconventional, home-life with her workaholic lawyer father Archie (Tim Roth, Reservoir Dogs), brother Jed (Bill Milner, Son of Rambow) and Polish au-pair Kasia (Zana Marjanovic, In The Land of Blood and Honey), the wider world intrigues Skunk, and she finds herself drawn to the damaged Rick.
Roth -making his first British movie in around a decade -may represent the most eye-catching name on the cast list, but young Eloise Laurence is undeniably the star of the show. Indeed, Roth’s performance is remarkably low-key, and it is slightly surprising that he turned down the intense role of Bob Oswald -a character more in line with his menacing earlier work. Nevertheless, Broken is an impressive calling card from award-winning theatre director Rufus Norris. With moments of Skunk’s child-like wonderment scattered across the corrosive suburban narrative, Broken has plenty of light and shade, and its abrupt shifts between violence and tenderness give the film a disturbing quality. Not an easy watch by any means, Broken is a thoughtful, evocative slice-of-life drama that makes great use of its quirky ensemble cast. One of the most impressive British movies of the year so far.
In Broken City (StudioCanal) Mark Wahlberg (Contraband, Ted) stars as Billy Taggart, a disgraced New York City cop who was kicked off the forced for overstepping the line when investigating a controversial case. Now he works as a private detective, barely making ends’ meet with a string of sleazy divorce cases. When a call from former ally Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe, The Next Three Days) provides Billy with the opportunity to earn himself a quick pay-day and claw back some respect, he jumps at the opportunity -only to realise that there is more than meets the eye. Ostensibly hired to tail the mayor’s glamorous wife Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones, Rock of Ages) and uncover who she is having an affair with, Billy soon finds himself sucked into a warped political power struggle in which the charismatic Hostetler seems to hold all of the cards
Perplexingly, before arriving on the screen, Brian Tucker’s flabby screenplay had an impressive pedigree, earning a spot on ‘The Black List’, an industry clearinghouse for Hollywood’s best, yet-to-be-produced screenplays. In the event, it was plucked off the list by Allen Hughes, one half of the Hughes Brothers (Menace II Society, The Book of Eli), for his first solo project. Despite an appealing neo-noir set-up and an enjoyably over-the-top performance from Crowe, Broken City struggles to explore new ground genre-wise. After a string of decent roles (notably The Fighter) Wahlberg phones in his blue-collar tough guy anti-hero, and it is rumoured that he only stepped into the breach after Michael Fassbender pulled out. Although the supporting cast emerge with their heads held high -not least Jeffrey Wright and Barry Pepper -Broken City adds up to far less than the sum of its parts. In a word: clunky.