Ex-cop turned private detective Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) has been hired by the Mayor of New York (Crowe) to investigate his wife's (Zeta-Jones) possible affair. The Mayor is up for re-election soon, and he believes that his wife's infidelities would be enough for the people of the city to lose faith in him. But all is not as it seems, as the Mayor's wife seems to be involved with someone who works for her husband's rival, while the Mayor himself is embroiled with a potentially corrupt multi-billion dollar housing project deal.
It's easy to see why these big names were attracted to this project, as it has the potential to be a modern Chinatown or All The President's Men; an intelligent, plot-heavy thriller that they just don't seem to make anymore. Unfortunately, the plot is mostly DOA (Dull On Arrival), and nobody involved seems particularly interested in reviving it. While always watchable, Wahlberg has always been more of a physical actor. Here he looks uncomfortable as he tries to look confused, and is way more at home using his fists rather than his IQ. He's also burdened with a dead-end girlfriend subplot that belongs in a completely different movie, but it gets unceremoniously dumped about half-way through, as though the film suddenly realised it were nothing more than excess baggage.
Crowe comes off a little better, all fake-tanned and fake-smiles, fully embodying necessary levels of good and evil that come with playing a movie version of a politician. Zeta-Jones is little more than set dressing, popping up in a handful of scenes to warn Wahlberg that "there's more to this than you know", but never revealing what that more might be. The worst part is that once the full plot is laid bare, there's this disappointing sense of "Oh, is that it?" What we get is a huge tease leading to a surprise climax that never comes.
Director Hughes (The Book Of Eli, From Hell) directs with a "Will this do?" level of apathy, complete with one of the dullest car chases in cinema history. There is no real sense of urgency to any of the events here, and aside from the handful of decent performances, there's no real reason to try to piece together Broken City. Just go re-watch Chinatown or All The President's Men again.