Great cast. Mediocre script. Could just as easily have been an episode on a TV cop series except for megastar Mark Wahlberg. When does this actor miss? Well, maybe he does here, but then there is Russell Crowe who triumphs as the big bad mayor and who redeems himself after his performance in Les Mis. Lastly there is Catherine Zeta-Jones who plays her usual trophy wife role with style and a cat and mouse 'you know she's been there' glint in her eye. But director Allen Hughes and writer Brian Tucker have confused chaos for plot. This is a complex double cross saga so keep your ears open and eyes wide.
It begins with a murder in a NY project modeled after Bedford Stuyvesant. Billy Taggart (Mark Wahlberg) shoots someone who has harmed his girlfriend's sister. Taggart is cleared of all charges and manages to get clean and sober with the help of his girl friend played convincingly by Natalie Martinez. He becomes a private eye and is brought back to work for his old boss, Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe), to investigate some personal business for him. The Mayor is fighting a neck and neck campaign for re-election against James Valliant (Barry Pepper).
One night the Mayor meets with Taggart to seek his help as a private detective by spying on the Mayor's wife. The Mayor is convinced Cathleen Hostetler is having an affair. This could ruin the Mayor's chances for re-election.
Taggart is given a check for $25,000 half the payment for the job. Armed with a Nikon and a will to succeed at all costs hoping to redeem himself, Taggart trails a handsome Paul Andrews (Kyle Chandler) whom he spots meeting with Cathleen. Andrews and Cathleen appear to be having an intimate conversation which Taggart photographs.
Taggart meets with the Mayor to deliver the photos for which he has been paid. Then Cathleen seeks out Taggart and offers him $25,000 to no longer work for her husband. Taggart is honorable and refuses her money, but asks just what is going on? Now Taggart is even more confused (and you will be, too) when Paul Andrews is murdered. Slowly Taggart begins to solve the riddle which is about a huge billion dollar real estate fraud which invites people close to the Mayor to commit fraud. The Police Commissioner played by Jeffery Wright adds a pick-me-up to the cast that limps through this mediocre script. Even Wahlberg goes out with a whimper.
See the film if you want to solve the riddle or skip it if it is all too familiar to you after seeing your share of Sidney Lumet films which deal with the same theme, but with greater skill.
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