Mark Wahlberg and Russell Crowe square off as a fallen ex-cop and a corrupt mayor in this tale of political intrigue, suspense and conspiracy.
Except without the political intrigue, suspense and conspiracy.
Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) is running for reelection in New York City. In order to get a handle on his wife’s extra-marital activities, he hires a private eye who used to be a cop, Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg). Years ago, Hostetler used the power of his office to quash damning evidence that would have proven Taggart’s guilt in the shooting of a suspect, so now he figures he has Taggart in his pocket.
Indeed, Taggart is washed up and down on his luck, and grateful for the work. He starts to grow a case of the morals, however, when he realizes that the Mayor’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) isn’t cheating on him, but going behind his back politically. When Taggart begins to question why, he unravels a politically charged conspiracy that threatens to derail the Mayor’s campaign.
As he moves forward with the investigation (of his own accord now), the powers that be begin to get uncomfortable, and the situation turns violent. There are a couple of murders committed in the name of perpetuating the cover up, and Taggert himself comes into danger. It’s then that he’ll have to square off against the Mayor and decide whether to sell out (and protect himself from the secret evidence the Mayor has been holding) or throw down.
With three leads of this calibre, and actors such as Jeffrey Wright, Barry Pepper, and Kyle Chandler in support, you know you can count on some decent acting. The script just doesn’t help them out, though. Simply put, “Broken City” isn’t nearly clever enough to be the movie that it would like to be. Instead of a political thriller loaded with intrigue and corruption, twists and turns, etc., it comes across as a generic thriller that we’ve seen in numerous prior incarnations. There’s really never any question that the Mayor is crooked (thanks, trailers!), and the plot that eventually is uncovered is a fairly hack trope for corruption fiction. It certainly won’t cause anyone in the audience to gasp in disbelief or anything, let’s say that.
It’s a bit of a shame, because the cast was enjoyable, and there were certain stretches of the movie where I could envision the film that it had wanted to be when it started out. It just never got there, though.
Over-simplified, stereotypical and unmemorable, “Broken City” is indeed in need of repair.