'Broken City' tries to play out like an intelligent thriller, however what we get instead is a movie so dreary and dull that it'd be a task to keep your mind reeled in with the happenings onscreen.
Mark Wahlberg plays a private investigator, Billy Taggart, hired by the mayor of New York City to follow his pretty wife around and find out if she's having an affair. The mayor, Nicolas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) and Billy go a long way back, seven years to be precise when Billy was a New York cop accused of murder. Billy shot dead a gang member suspected of rape and murder after the man had been acquitted by courts on a technicality. The ensuing investigation relives Billy of any guilt for the â€œcrimeâ€ but the mayor calls him a hero, convinces him that the best way forward is to quit the force and he'll always remember Billy when the time arose. Now with the mayor re-election just about a fortnight away Hostetler's facing the heat from a seemingly earnest opponent, Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper) particularly over an urban redevelopment sanctioned by the mayor's office. The last thing he needs is a scandal on his hands involving his wife's alleged infidelity.
Billy follows Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) around and discovers she's been secretly meeting Paul Andrews (Kyle Chandler), Valliant's campaign manager. The case might seem like a simple open and shut deal but once Billy hands over the evidence to Hostetler things start going south pretty quickly and Taggart realises he's been made a pawn in a much larger political gambit which also involves the commissioner of police, Carl Fairbanks (Jeffery Wright). A slew of double crosses ensue, lives are put at risk and lies are handed out like candy, leaving stoically earnest Billy with a choice to do something about it or simply act as if nothing happened.
The movie contains its fair share of twists and turns but baring a minor few, all the major ones you'll see them coming a mile away given the way the actors portray their characters. Everyone by their portrayal has already picked a side and is making sure you know it well. Don't know if it was Crowe's over tanned face or the fact that he's carrying around a huge hunting rifle in his office while he gives Billy a particularly sexist analogy about a â€œbitch in heatâ€ while gulping down scotch simultaneously; all of that is just a dead giveaway that this man is utter scum. The only character whose moral compass has any sort of enigma is that of the police commissioner and that too thanks to Jeffery Wright's measured understated portrayal.
All the criticism apart the movie does contain a few solid scenes; one being of a live political debate which goes belly-up pretty quickly for the earnest Valliant. Leading up to the scene you'd think Valliant has all his corners sorted but Hostetler pulls the rug from under his feet and Barry Pepper's confounded, exasperated expression is to die for.
Russell Crowe is suitably oily and detestable while Mark Wahlberg puts on his best Mark Wahlberg expression, bored, beefed up and blunt. Catherine Zeta-Jones has a minuscule role and she plays it like she walked in from a 1940's noir film.
'Broken City' is a half-baked thriller and unconvincing drama that leaves never gets going after the initial interesting setup. Wait for it to arrive on home video instead.view less