Broken City is directed by Terry Spears and written by Jonathon M. Smith. The crime thriller aims to examine the fallout caused by massive layoffs by uncaring CEOs, familial bonds, and politics while asking who one can truly trust. Does Smith’s first feature-length screenplay meet these ambitions, or does the weight of it all swallow character motivations?
Maya (Ria Gill) is desperate for money, as her mom cannot keep up with the house payments. Also severely in need of a windfall is her boyfriend, Desmond (Jonathon M. Smith). So the two decide to case and rob the homes of the very wealthy. They recruit the unhinged Andy (Ronnie Angel), who is adept at breaking and entering, as well as malicious violence for no reason. Typically, Maya and Desmond can talk Andy out of anything too rash, and the trio can abscond with a decent take.
But their latest heist goes pear-shaped quickly. The target is Timothy (Scott Patrick Erwin), who just so happens to be hosting an executive officer infamous for mass layoffs and high profits. Said man, Dominic (Curt Darling), brought his girlfriend Lola (Marley Rey) and things heat up quickly once the criminals and profiteers come together. What is the personal connection between Maya and Dominic? Will the core trio make off with the score of a lifetime?
“… the two decide to case and rob the homes of the very wealthy.”
Broken City clocks in at roughly 73 minutes long, including credits. This is not long enough for everything to fully come together. Aside from Maya saying bye to her mom on her way to the thieves’ base of operations, the two do not share any screen time. In fact, the mom is not shown again at all. As such, hinging so much of Maya’s motivations on her bond with her family falls flat. An 80-minute version is still a tight watch, and that added time could be a scene with Maya and her mom doing something sweet or fun together. As it is, how she says bye in that one scene makes it seem like Maya doesn’t care much for her mother. It is awkward, to say the least.
To be fair, Maya’s backstory involving her father works well, as does Dominic’s arc. Once revealed, it adds the dramatic stakes lacking until then. Interestingly, the hostages are more fleshed-out than the central trio of comeuppance burglars. Timothy and his wife adopted Lucy (Chelsea Suh), who has asthma. Dominic tries to get into the heads of Maya and company. He insists they’d also do similar actions if it were guaranteed to keep their families afloat forever. It is truly compelling stuff.
The cast really makes Broken City crackle. Gill’s guilt over how she gets money is felt in every scene. She shares decent chemistry with Smith, who cuts quite a sympathetic baddie. Angel brings the right amount of unpredictability to his role as the psychotic thief. Darling is easy to hate and root for at the same time. Rey’s fear is palpable in all of her scenes. Suh is charming as the youngest hostage.
Broken City is a great stepping stone in the cast and crew’s journey into cinematic endeavors. The plot needs a little more meat on its bones to work totally. But what does work is the cast and the tension the director wrings out of the last 15 minutes. Overall, this is a satisfying watch that should please thrill seekers.
For more information, visit the Broken City Facebook page.
"…a great stepping stone..."