Even though it’s woefully clear from the get-go that Broken City is a pretty inadequate movie insofar as story, plot, and basic narrative tension is concerned, there is one saving grace to the entire proceeding, and his name is Mark Wahlberg.
Wahlberg is one of those rare “accidental” actors whom critics and audiences rarely take seriously (he was an underwear model!) but who seems to turn in memorable performances, one after the other. If we saw him as the lovable lout of last year’s hilarious Ted, we also buy him wholly as the NYPD cop Billy Taggart in Broken City. His performance is always credible and sincere, even when everything else about the movie isn’t.
Taggart’s career is falling apart, and he can barely make ends meet. He is called in (as these washed up cops usually are) to confirm that the first lady of New York (Catherine Zeta Jones), married to the city’s mayor (Russell Crowe), is having an affair with a rival politician’s chief of staff (Kyle Chandler). What he finds isn’t what he’s expecting – and it leads to his unraveling.
The whole thing gets very convoluted very fast, and it’s only Wahlberg who makes the movie at all interesting or watchable. Zeta-Jones comes off as almost a parody of upper class snootery, while Crowe gives what is probably the least memorable performance of his career. A sad case of parts adding up to less than their whole.