Billy Taggert is the killer cop, or so the opening scene would suggest, but the second scene, in which he's exonerated in court, would suggest the opposite, only the third scene in which the mayor and the police commissioner announce they have proof that Billy did kill a homicidal maniac that night and should resign from the force, suggests the opening scene had a point. And, thus, seven years later, Billy is a private investigator with a loyal secretary named Katy. Billy is better at collecting proof for his clients than he is at collecting pay from them, so Katy has to play tough cop.
And then the mayor, his hair slapped on his skull like a cap, calls Billy in to determine with whom the First Lady is cuckolding him. The money looks good -- and Billy can use the money -- so he takes the job even though he's not too sure about the mayor's agenda. The mayor is in a hot election with a man named Valliant, who claims the mayor is twisted up in bad development deals in a housing project where Billy's wife's sister was killed on the night shown in the first scene. No surprise that the mayor's assignment is a double cross and undoing the crosses is as tricky as getting the kinks out of a tiny gold chain.
Mark Wahlberg, so good in "Boogie Nights," barely carries "Broken City" in the role of Billy. Perhaps it's because the character of the cop was written by Brian Tucker to be just one seed in the Big Apple. Or maybe Billy, and, thus, Wahlberg, is surrounded by such a good supporting cast, including Russell Crowe as the mayor, Catherine Zeta-Jones as the mayor's angry wife, Jeffrey Wright as the police commissioner; Barry Pepper as the valiant candidate for election, Kyle Chandler as the candidate's campaign manager, and Griffin Dunne as a corporate thug. Alona Tal is especially good as Katy the secretary in the Ann Sothern tradition.
Director Allen Hughes, one of the twins who directed "Dead Presidents," writes the label "noir" all over "Broken City." The only light in the film seems to come at night from brake lights and skyscraper windows and gun sparks. Camera shots of gun shots and publicity shots are very close to pores and tats and tuxes, but these are not intimate, just invasive. "Broken City" is violent, formulaic and loud -- a chuck flick.