Whatever you think of the movies Mark Wahlberg makes — from a shoot-’em-up urban western like “Four Brothers” to the gritty boxer biopic “The Fighter” to the filthy but very funny “Ted” — it’s hard to argue with the career he’s created for himself. A former juvie from Dorchester who once seemed destined for an extended stay behind bars, Wahlberg is now 41 and a full-fledged Hollywood mogul. Two decades after appearing on buses and billboards, buff and smirking in a pair of Calvin Klein tighty whities, Wahlberg is an Oscar-nominated actor (for “The Departed”), a successful producer (of the HBO series “Entourage” and “Boardwalk Empire”), and an entrepreneur (he and his brothers Donnie and Paul own Wahlburgers, a burger restaurant in Hingham that they hope to franchise elsewhere). In short, Wahlberg, who’s married to model Rhea Durham, with whom he has four children, has become a grown-up, a solid citizen of the sort that may surprise even members of his own family. In his new movie, “Broken City,” which opens Friday, Wahlberg plays an ex-cop seeking revenge after being double-crossed by a powerful New York mayor played by Russell Crowe. The film costars Catherine Zeta-Jones and Jeffrey Wright. In a recent phone interview from Atlanta, where he was busy promoting “Broken City,” Wahlberg talked about his motivation for making movies and what he’s up to next.
Q. So I read an interview you did not so long ago in which you said you’re at a point in your career where you make movies you’d like to see. This is one of those?
A. This fits, in particular, because it reminds me of “Serpico” and “Chinatown” and all the great movies of the ’70s that I watched with my dad, movies that were character-driven, underdog stories of guys that have to overcome quite a bit in a very realistic way. I just read the script and fell in love with the material. Initially, we wanted to do it independently so we didn’t have studio people staring over our shoulder and what not. So [director] Allen [Hughes] and I were basically left to our devices and . . . after we shot the movie, we made the deal with Fox.
Q. Talk to me about making a movie with Allen Hughes, who, with his brother Albert, also made “Menace II Society” and “Dead Presidents.”
A. I was a big fan of Allen’s since “Menace II Society.” We talked about working together at one point or another but this was the first time it came together.
Q. This film falls into a category you’re quite good at. I don’t know what to call it. Maybe “revenge films”? There’s a setup and then you make things right.
A. It has a redemption theme.
Q. Right. That’s something that appeals to you?
A. For sure. I love this character. He lives in this world which is a very unapologetic world. I remember one journalist asked me why wasn’t there a big kind of apology/breakdown scene. I said because that’s not what happens in this story. This guy’s going to have 15 years to deal with the mistakes he’s made. But he’s willing to take that chance in order to right something even bigger.
Q. There is a political undercurrent here. But you don’t strike me as a particularly political guy. Is that fair?
A. Yes, very fair. My biggest concerns, obviously, when it comes to politics or unemployment or inner city or at-risk kids are things that affect people who come from where I came from.
Q. The movie is violent, but not gratuitously so.
A. When you see the campaign manager [Kyle Chandler] shot, you don’t see him actually get shot. And you see a bullet going through my car window, and you see me shoot that big guy [Chance Kelly] in the leg. I knew we were going to have to fight so I wanted to level the playing field a little.
Q. He is a giant.
A. We didn’t want to pull any punches making this movie. All those guys were specifically hired to come in and fight with me. We didn’t want to do the slick editing choreographed fights. We wanted to be down and dirty and real. Like the car chase.
Q. Yes, the car chase is good. Honestly, I didn’t think you were going to get up from that. But I guess you had to.
A. Yeah, there was a little bit more to be done.
Q. You seemed prepared for my question about violence. You’re a dad now — a family man — is violence something you think about as you decide what movies to make?
A. Of course. If you think about the horrible tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and think about what happened in Aurora, Colo., our country is not doing something right. We have to be able to protect our families and our children and our schools.
Q. So when you’re making a movie, you’re thinking about how violent it is?Continued...