You know what other genre I love aside from sci-fi and fantasy? Film noir. I'm talking Sin City by Robert Rodriguéz, Memento, etcetera. I also love film noir about dirty cops, corrupt politicians, and how one'll plan to make the city a bigger hell-hole.
Which makes 2013's Broken City all the more disappointing.
NYPD detective Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg, The Fighter) is involved in a nighttime shooting, then is brought up on charges. Captain Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright, Source Code) and Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe, Gladiator) discuss the case as protesters picket the courthouse. Hostetler mentions they have new evidence and next the judge announces the charges are dropped. The Mayor summons Taggart to his office where he seems sympathetic.
Seven years later Billy is a struggling PI. He spends a day calling clients to get them to pay up. His assistant, Katy Bradshaw (Alona Tal), tells him the Mayor is calling. Arriving at City Hall, the Mayor is watching a TV news item on his election opponent Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper, Battlefield: Earth), apparently the two are close in the polls. Hostetler makes small talk with Billy then gets down to business, he wants evidence his wife is having an affair and he needs the prof before next Tuesday's election.
I'll get to the good stuff, first. Wahlberg and Crowe are easily the best parts of the movie. Their performances are smooth, articulate, and not once bland or stale. It also helps that Wahlberg has a certain amount of sly wit to him that does make him and his character a little charming.
Atticus Ross' score also elevates the movie at times. It's not always catchy, in fact, I only remember the main theme, but I'm still gonna give props to Ross for the use of the somber drone and soft piano. They actually carry out the movie's tone.
Now, the bad. The film's trailer gives WAY TOO MUCH AWAY.
Going in, you're not supposed to know that Nick has set Billy up so that he could murder his opponent's campaign manager.
The big issue is that the film relies so heavily on clichés and inconsistencies that not only kick you out of the movie's world, but also deconstructs it. Billy's character is supposed to be a recovering alcoholic, but has no problem grabbing the nearest shiner from a bar or at any opportunity in the slightest.
Allen Hughes has made some competent films with his brother before, most notably The Book of Eli, but this film shows that you need one to complete the other, and while the actors give it their all, it's not enough to recommend this generic cop noir.