Seven years ago Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) was a cop who took justice in to his own hands and killed a bad guy. He got off thanks to Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe) and Police Commissioner Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright) but it led to him leaving the force and becoming a Private Investigator. But now Billy receives the call he knew that one day would come when Hostetler calls in the favour as he suspects his wife Cathleen (Catherine Zeta-Jones) of cheating on him and he wants Billy to get the proof and find out who it is doing her. What Billy uncovers is that Cathleen has been meeting with a Paul Andrews (Kyle Chandler) who happens to be working for Jack Valiant (Barry Pepper) the anti-corruption candidate who the mayor is up against in the forthcoming elections. Curious by what is going on Billy finds himself getting deeper involved when Paul shows up dead.
That is a very focussed plot outline for "Broken City" which concentrates on Billy being in the corrupt mayor's pocket snooping on his wife and inevitably finding himself in deep when a murder occurs. Now that to be frank sounds ordinary, old school cinema done for a new generation right down to the corrupt mayor having a rival who maybe twenty years earlier would have been called someone Kennedy. And unfortunately for those who have watched these sorts of movies back in the 70s and 80s this offers up little to make it feel fresh although Billy's techniques for getting information are entertaining.
But as I said that is a very focussed plot outline and we have other things going on which early on seem to be getting a surprising amount of attention. We have Billy's girlfriend's acting career, his assistant chasing up clients who haven't paid and many other things which don't seem like they should be important but somehow end up more important than they need to be. Or at least these things end up more important than they need to be in a movie which comes in under two hours. If "Broken City" was hitting the 150 minute mark then maybe it would be different, maybe they would get the time to be expanded upon properly and worked in to the main storyline with out it feeling rushed.
About the only good thing about "Broken City" are the performances with Mark Wahlberg finds himself yet again cast in the cop type role, a comfort zone which he is solid in even if this movie does not challenge him. And then there is Russell Crowe who plays Mayor Hostetler like a mob boss, holding meetings in his oak lined office where he is King with people in his pocket and dirty tricks to keep him in power. But no matter how good the performances are they can't salvage a movie which is too muddled due to cramming too much in to 109 minutes.
What this all boils down to is that not only does "Broken City" feel like it has been done before but it is too ambitious and can't make the storyline and various subplots work when shoe horned into a movie under 2 hours.