Allen Hughes, one half of the Hughes brothers who gave us Menace II Society and The Book of Eli, goes solo with Broken City, a crime drama he directed which stars Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe. The film follows an NYPD cop named Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) who follows the Mayor of New York’s wife to find out if she is cheating and while doing so, stumbles upon a much larger scandal.
At the film’s recent press day, Hughes showed up to discuss all things Broken City. He spoke about his evolution as a filmmaker, making his first film without his brother, how Mark Wahlberg got involved in the film and more.
Check it out below.
We Got This Covered: Alan, can we ask you about your evolution as a filmmaker from Menace II Society to this movie? There seems to be a through line with the material that you choose.
Allen Hughes: Albert and I were 20 when we made that and we just turned 40, so no one warned me about the introspective and retrospective stage you get in. The theme has always been the disenfranchised character, the underdog, the underclass, the misunderstood psychologically and the renegade outlaw, so it’s been the character or the person who is always marginalized by society and cast aside. With Book of Eli not being the exception, it’s just a different kind of version where this guy’s by himself and what is he going to do? When the world’s over, what do you do? And it dawned on me, you must have a purpose. It doesn’t have to be as grand as Eli, but you’ve got to have a purpose to survive. In that movie, he was a renegade and an outlaw. He was different from everybody else and he didn’t conform to a community because he was different. I think that’s a theme because I was that my whole life and mostly psychologically misunderstood, mentally misunderstood, racially misunderstood and I slipped through the cracks of the public school system on top of it.
We Got This Covered: And is that the same idea with Mark Wahlberg’s character of Billy Taggart in this film?
Allen Hughes: Yeah. The thing that’s interesting about Billy is… I call this guy like Joe Lunch Pail because he’s that working-class mentality that is similar to Mark and he’s disciplined. But he’s not this intellectual wonder, he’s not the politician, he’s just a soldier, you know? And at some point in the movie he gets marginalized and they cast them out because of this event. They cast him out so far that he’s no longer a cop in Manhattan. He’s in Brooklyn working as a private detective investigating these tawdry affairs now in the shadow of New York, so he’s not in the big time. So when the mayor calls him after seven years, he goes “oh I’m going to get my job back!” He gets so excited, goes to the Mayor’s office only to find that the Mayor tells him “I need you to… I think my wife’s cheating on me” and he deflates. Even at the beginning of the movie he’s an outlaw, he’s a renegade, but he is the common man and that’s what I relate to: the common man and woman, and I don’t just say that.
I was raised by a feminist. My mother was a radical feminist, the head of her chapter at the ERA, the head of her chapter at the National Organization of Women, President of the rape crisis hotline in the 80s, and we were marching with Gloria Steinem at nine years old and Jane Fonda for women’s rights. My mother was f**king radical! So I came up under that type of woman, and she would always talk about men in society and what they’ve done with women, let alone blacks and Native Americans. So I have always identified with that and that’s a full-bodied answer to that question because it’s very personal.
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