"There are some wars you fight and some wars you walk away from. This isn't the fighting kind."
I guess Allen Hughes's brother, Albert (with whom he has always worked with in the past directing such films as The Book of Eli and From Hell), decided this was a movie he was going to walk away from. Albert was the smarter brother here because Broken City really missed the mark with a rather predictable plot involving corrupt government officials, silly twists, and irrelevant character motivations. I felt the story was rather ambiguous and some characters were presented only to introduce a certain plot element and then were completely forgotten (as with Natalie and Cathleen). In this day and age where you can find great TV series why would someone want to go see a political thriller so formulaic as this? Hughes has to offer something much more groundbreaking if he wants to attract audiences. It's not enough just to have big stars and a predictable script. It's a shame that the film is actually more broken than the city, and one of the main issues I had was with the weak script written by Brian Tucker which leaves way too many loose ends. Broken City isn't a terrible movie, but it isn't any good either.
Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) is a New York detective on trial for having killed an alleged rapist and murderer. The court finds Billy innocent despite the fact that Police Commissioner Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) presented some evidence to the city's Mayor, Hostetler (Russell Crowe), which he decided to withhold. The Mayor congratulates Billy for doing the right thing but he is asked to resign. The film jumps seven years forward where we see Billy working as a private detective (mostly hired for adultery cases). He is married to Natalie (Natalie Martinez), an aspiring actress who happened to be the sister of the murderer's victim. Mayor Hostetler hires Billy to follow his wife, Cathleen (Catherine Zeta Jones), whom he suspects is cheating on him. He wants him to do it quietly because he's a few weeks away from reelection and the opposing candidate, Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper) is closing in on the race. Billy is surprised to discover that the person Cathleen has been meeting with is actually Paul Andrews (Kyle Chandler), Valliant's lead campaign coordinator. A few days after he makes this discovery, Paul is found murdered in the streets and Billy realizes that there is much more going on here than a simple adultery case.
There is no doubt that the strongest thing about Broken City is its cast. Mark Wahlberg is comfortable here playing the tough guy and I thought he gave a strong performance. I did expect more from Russell Crowe who didn't really add much to the movie. The few scenes with Barry Pepper were probably the strongest ones. Catherine Zeta Jones was underused here and her character is simply in this film to move the plot along. The same can be said for Natalie Martinez. So many of these characters were simply part of this film to introduce certain plot elements but then were completely forgotten. There is no character development and pretty much everyone plays stereotypical roles here. If you've seen political thrillers in the past than you'd be very familiar with these one dimensional characters. Despite trying to pay close attention to the plot I still had a hard time understanding how certain elements were connected with one another. Everything felt contrived and the story was too ambitious. By the end I thought the story was just too unbelievable for a film that tried to appear real and authentic.