Director Allen Hughes on crime thriller Broken City

04 March, 2013 by Emily Blatchford

The first thing out of the mouth of Broken City director Allen Hughes is an apology.

“My apologies for my tardiness, the previous journalist kept me on the phone too long,” he says, before adding, “It’s not all their fault though. Once you get me going I don’t stop.”


Hughes does indeed have a lot to say about his latest project, the gritty noir thriller Broken City starring Russell Crowe, Mark Wahlberg and Catherine Zeta-Jones.

The film follows ex-cop, now private-detective Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) who is hired by corrupt New York mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Crowe), to investigate his seemingly-unfaithful wife (Zeta-Jones). But as the mayoral election campaign takes off and Taggart becomes more deeply involved in the case, he begins to suspect Hostetler’s motives may not be as straight forward as they originally seemed.

Hughes says the script, written by Brian Tucker, originally came to him via his agent, which “is how it’s supposed to work but rarely does.”

“One can always tell when an agent is just sending me stuff because they should and when they are because they’re passionate about it. I could tell this was a project of passion – I had to read this.”

It is Hughes’ first feature as solo director (previous successful features The Book of Eli and From Hell were co-directed with his brother Albert).

“It was great for me,” Hughes says of the experience. “I was looking forward to it. Don’t get me wrong – me and my brother have done some things – it was extraordinary how we worked together. But this was a new feeling, a new sport. Now it’s time to me my own man and him to be his own man – our own filmmakers.”

For Hughes, the casting of his two leading men was a no-brainer.

“One thing was quite unusual – (when I was reading the script) Mark Wahlberg’s face just jumped off the page to me. That’s rare that happens. There was no one else for me. I met with him right away; we hit it off right away. He understood what the movie was. I asked him to come on as a producer – he makes the tough calls and knows a lot of people.”

As for the casting of Hostetler, Hughes says, “We knew we had to get a movie star. Everyone agreed that Mark and Russell was an interesting dynamic– everyone just knew they would work. So we went to Russell and that was a bit of a dance. He’s very particular about what he does in his own colourful way. The last thing I expected was to really get on with him, really like a brother, I love him. I knew he was a great actor, I just didn’t know he was this good. If you see the movie the second or third time – he’s so uncanny, so subtle – you’ll see something new every time. He’s extraordinary.”

Hughes’ praise of Crowe’s performance is not one that has necessarily been echoed in the press. In fact, reception to the film and the performances – that of Crowe in particular – has been anything but uniform.

“The critical response has been very mixed. Very interesting, I haven’t seen anything like it,” Hughes says.

“I don’t read any reviews but through my publicist and through my brother I’ve heard the trends. There’s vindictiveness (toward the film). Even the (reviews) that are positive seem to be vindictive.”

Hughes maintains this perception lies mostly in critic’s circles and doesn’t reflect what he has personally witnessed amongst audiences.

“The audiences – and I mean this, I’ve seen it – we did a tour, they really, really love the film.

“I’ve seen applause at the end of the movie, which I didn’t expect.

“I think there were certain people in the so called critical world that – you would think would appreciate it – but even the critics are not accustomed to reviewing great film anymore. There’s so much popcorn out there. The critics are changing.

“Personally, I’ve never been so proud of a film.”

Hughes will march to a different beat in his next project, A Bittersweet Life, which is based on a Korean gangster film.

“I’m just going to get back to some gangster s—t,” he says. “(Broken City) comes out – it’s complex and it’s dark and multi-layered and sophisticated.

“But now it’s time to go and bust some caps in a few asses.

“You’ve got to keep people entertained you know.”

Broken City hits Australian cinemas on March 7.

View the trailer here: