The hardest thing you can do in the Broken City is to try and fit all the pieces back together. Nobody knows this more than Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg). An ex-police officer turned streetwise private detective who's desperately trying to make ends meet. That is until Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) offers him $50,000 to investigate his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) who he suspects is having an affair. But the Mayor has a few dark secrets of his own and in becoming his eyes and ears Taggart also becomes his scapegoat. Double-crossed and framed, Taggart decides to take action in an unstoppable and explosive crusade for justice and revenge.
With a complicated plot involving political corruption, adultery and a PI Broken City looks set to be a modern noir with Mark Wahlberg at the helm as ex-cop turned private detective Billy Taggart; and director Allen Hughes (the Book of Eli) tries his hardest to elevate the film to this most coveted standard. An overly complex plot and easily lost dialogue cause things to fall short for Broken City however; whilst it’s rather obvious base premise is both tired and unimaginative.
Opening on a murder scene where Taggart finds himself holding a gun and looking particularly incriminating the film begins with Mayor Nicholas Hostetler doing Taggart a suspicious favour. Seven years pass and Hosteler calls Taggart into his office to return the favour; at this most turbulent time of Mayoral elections Hosteler is convinced that is his wife, the disaffected Catherine Zeta-Jones, is having an affair. Asked to tail her Taggart quickly realizes that this is not an ordinary case of adultery, but that there is something more devious going on beneath the surface.
With a fairly interesting sub plot Broken City attempts to juggle more than even the best of film’s can handle; the political corruption storyline littered so frequently with red herrings that it begins to look like a dockside rubbish pile, whilst the performances of one or two members of the main cast is either ineffective or unimaginative. Crowe gives it his best shot as Mayor Hostetler, and though he plays the two faced gangster politician well it is hardly his most impressive performance, whilst Wahlberg as a Sam Spade-esque PI just doesn’t do it for me.
Ultimately Broken City was a little wasted on me, the crime and action aspects of the film likely to appeal to those keen on pieces made for broad audience appeal; I on the other hand will stick with Crowe’s other noir performance and indulge in the Oscar winning intrigue of the wonderful L.A Confidential.