PHILADELPHIA -- It isn't hard, the first time Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe square off in "Broken City," to see that the two stars are enjoying themselves mightily. Wahlberg is a New York cop asked to resign in the wake of a controversial shooting, and Crowe is the mayor asking for his badge. They meet in the mayor's City Hall office -- it's a tense, tough exchange, with Jeffrey Wright, another formidable actor, off to one side. But there's clearly an amiable vibe mixed in with the brinkmanship, too.
"Russell didn't come on until week six of production," Wahlberg recalls. "And the first day that he walked onto the set, we were going to shoot that big confrontation, and Allen Hughes, our director, was saying, ‘You guys want to rehearse?' "And we both said no. ‘Let's just start throwin' down. ‘ "
And that's what they did.
A tale of political corruption, police violence, power, and greed, "Broken City" -- opening today a Beacon Cinema in Pittsfield, Berkshire Mall Cinema 10 in Lanesborough, and North Adams Movieplex 8-- owes a debt to classics such as "The Big Sleep," "The Maltese Falcon" and "Chinatown." Wahlberg's Billy Taggert leaves the NYPD and sets up shop as a private eye, chasing adulterous spouses, and chasing clients who haven't paid him.
When the mayor calls Taggert back a few years down the line and offers the freelance detective a big check to follow his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), Taggert thinks he's got everything figured out.
Like Humphrey Bogart's and Jack Nicholson's sorry gumshoes, though, it turns out he doesn't have a clue.
"For sure, those are movies I grew up watching with my dad," Wahlberg says, acknowledging that's one of the reasons he went for "Broken City" -- a film he also produced.
"And that's why we were able to attract the talent, because there were so many well-written parts. People really got to sink their teeth into meaty roles."
Nothing if not industrious, Wahlberg has four films set for release in 2013, and more in the works that he'll star in and/or produce for his company, Leverage. He's also executive producer of TV's "Entourage" (they may make a movie) and "Boardwalk Empire." First up, "Broken City." Then in April, it's "Pain & Gain," with Wahlberg and Dwayne Johnson as bodybuilders caught in an extortion scheme. Michael Bay directs.
In August, Wahlberg teams with Denzel Washington for "2 Guns," about a DEA agent and a Navy intelligence officer investigating a crime syndicate -- and each other. Wahlberg's "Contraband" director, Baltasar Kormakur, is back barking orders.
And then, slated for December, there's "Lone Survivor," based on the true story of Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, part of an ill-fated 2005 mission high in the mountains of Afghanistan's Kunar province. Four SEALs were caught in an ambush -- "it's the worst tragedy in the history of the SEALs," says Wahlberg. Eric Bana, Emile Hirsch and Taylor Kitsch also star, and Peter Berg directs.
And beyond this year? Look for Wahlberg in Bay's "Transformers" reboot, in the comedy "Avon Man" and, yes, in the sequel to the over-the-top stoner romp "Ted."