While this thriller plays with themes of political ethics and ambition, it merely lets them simmer in the background. Director Hughes is clearly much more interested in macho posturing and the convoluted scandal-based plot, so he lets the cast members merrily chomp on the scenery but neglects to give us anything that engages our brains.
The broken city of the title is New York, where Mayor Hostetler (Crowe) covered up a shooting involving cop Billy (Walhberg) to protect himself seven years ago. Acquitted but disgraced, Billy is now working as a low-rent private detective when the mayor calls in a favour. He hires Billy to find out who his wife (Zeta-Jones) is having an affair with before it derails his re-election campaign against the passionate rising-star Valliant (Pepper). It doesn't take Billy long to get the incriminating photos, but clearly there's something much bigger at stake here, so he continues to investigate the situation, which uncovers such high-reaching corruption that Billy's life is in danger.
Demonstrating how little the film cares about its characters, Billy's long-time girlfriend (Martinez) is dispatched suddenly after a series of arguments during which she refuses to put up with his boorish, chauvinistic stupidity. Why she stuck with him this long is the real question. But this and other eccentric relationships in the plot are much more interesting than the dull property-development boondoggle that Hughes instead decided to focus on. The problem is that this leaves Wahlberg with the only remotely complex character, an intriguing mess of a man who overreacts wildly to everything and yet seems to want to do the right thing.
As the story progresses, there's the sense that the film has been harshly re-edited because the chain of events don't quite hang together logically. For example at one point, Billy drinks at least a full bottle of whiskey without even getting tipsy, despite the fact that he has been teetotal for seven years. And several side characters appear and disappear randomly, leaving loose threads dangling all over the place. At least Hughes has a fine visual sense as a director, and can make the most of his actors and settings. His clever use of light and shadow enjoyably distracts us from the fact that there's nothing very interesting going on.
Run time: 109 mins
In Theaters: Friday 18th January 2013
Box Office USA: $19.7M
Box Office Worldwide: $19.7M
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Production compaines: 1984 Private Defense Contractors, Emmett/Furla Films, Inferno International, Regency Enterprises, Black Bear Pictures, New Regency Pictures, Closest to the Hole Productions, Leverage Communications, Envision Entertainment Corporation
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 28%
Fresh: 40 Rotten: 104
IMDB: 6.2 / 10
Director: Allen Hughes
Screenwriter: Brian Tucker
Starring: Mark Wahlberg as Billy Taggart, Russell Crowe as Nicholas Hostetler, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Cathleen Hostetler, Jeffrey Wright as Carl Fairbanks, Barry Pepper as Jack Valliant, Alona Tal as Katy Bradshaw, Natalie Martinez as Natalie Barrow, Michael Beach as Tony Jansen, Kyle Chandler as Paul Andrews, James Ransone as Todd Lancaster, Griffin Dunne as Sam Lancaster, Britney Theriot as Valerie, Odessa Sykes as Secretary, Luis Tolentino as Mikey Tavarez, Tony Bentley as Judge, Andrea Frankle as Prosecutor, William Ragsdale as Mr. Davies, Chance Kelly as Murdock, Justin Chambers as Ryan Blake, Ric Reitz as Mitch Rappaport, Lydia Hull as Mitch Rapapport's Wife
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