Director: Allen Hughes; Screenwriter: Brian Tucker; Starring: Mark Walhberg, Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Barry Pepper, Kyle Chandler, Jeffrey Wright; Running time: 109 mins; Certificate: 15
Opening on a shot of its dishevelled protagonist Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) holding a smoking gun, Allen Hughes's Broken City plunges into New York's dangerous underbelly with murder, sex and high-level political corruption.
It's a noir potboiler with a tantalising setup, yet somehow none of it ever quite seems to slot together. It has lofty ambitions, taking a leaf out of Chinatown's book, not to mention the sprawling '70s crime sagas of Sidney Lumet. Ultimately, though, what emerges is a weak, featherlight genre facsimile that just makes you pine for those earlier, better films.
The story sees Wahlberg's beat cop turn private eye after narrowly avoiding jail time thanks to the city's mayor Nicolas Hostetler (Russell Crowe). Seven years later and Hostetler calls Taggart back in for a favour. He suspects his wife Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is cheating on him, and asks the detective to supply the evidence. Times are tough for Billy and his assistant Katy (Alona Tal), so the mayor's $50,000 offer is one he can't afford to turn down.
Wahlberg is suitably stoic and Zeta-Jones makes the most of an underwritten role, but the performances aren't Broken City's problem. It packs in a few too many extraneous threads that just aren't very interesting, chief of which is Taggart's home life subplot with wife Natalie (Natalie Martinez), a fast-rising indie actress who's quickly outgrowing him. It makes for a funny scene where Taggart squirms in his seat at a premiere as he sees his other half having sex on screen, but that aside it's an inclusion that adds little to the film.
Brian Tucker's script is trying to make a comment about absolute power corrupting and the potentially poisonous influence of big business on politics, but it's funnelled through such a by-the-numbers tale that none of it really carries any punch. We've seen all this before, and done much better.