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‘Broken City’

by Giovanni Fazio

Mark Wahlberg plays a down-on-his-luck private detective — is there any other kind in the movies? — whose pretty young assistant (Alona Tal) is calling in unpaid debts to keep their business afloat. He’s an ex-NYPD cop and ex-alcoholic who was retired after a fatal shooting of a perp, and only spared a trial by the mayor (Russell Crowe) and police commissioner (Jeffrey Wright) quashing evidence against him. Now the mayor is in a tight election campaign against a rising liberal opponent (Barry Pepper) and needs to find out who his unfaithful wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is sleeping with before it’s all over the front pages, and he offers the P.I. $50,000 to find out.

Broken City
Rating

Throw in some subplots about shady property-development schemes and it becomes clear that this tale of a detective out of his depth wants to be “Chinatown” so badly it hurts; I spent the second hour waiting for when Wahlberg would get his nose slashed. The cast are all first-rate, if a bit by-the-numbers here — Zeta-Jones doing Jackie O., while Crowe and Wright try to glare each other to death — but the film’s Achilles’ heel is an overly convoluted yet strangely suspense-free script by newbie Brian Tucker. Scene after scene depends on Wahlberg’s dodgy P.I. yelling at someone to tell him what the hell is going on, and strangely enough, they do.