Allen Hughes selects two roughnecks for his drama of an honest-but-dumb private eye and a shady mayor with a lot to hide.
Mark Wahlberg is the ex-cop once dumped by his city; Russell Crowe is the thug in a suit who believes his trophy wife is having an affair.
Thus Billy (Wahlberg) is thrust into the intricacies of politicking, dirty business deals, philandering spouses and frustrated rich kids with a closet full of secrets. What he discovers is corruption at all levels and more than a whiff of someone – maybe him – being lined up as a patsy.
Brian Tucker’s script cobbles together tropes from an array of older, better movies and paints them with a patina that gives them a retro feel while setting it resolutely in the present.
Wahlberg dispenses with the raincoat and trilby but there is a definite mode here: he is a throwback to films from a better age. Lurching from one violent revelation to the next he is the audience’s conscience – a fundamentally good man wallowing in filth.
Crowe appears to be easing into middle age, preferring to exude menace through words rather than actions. He’s like a spider, reaching out to test the strands of his mighty web but never leaving his place of sanctuary.
That’s what his minions are for. As his wife, Catherine Zeta-Jones provides distraction to the main plot.
She is a cipher, there to draw Billy into the web. He knows it; eventually so does she. But the web as woven by Tucker eventually unravels.
Allen is unable to inject any real high-value drama into it and both Wahlberg and Crowe bat on a dull wicket.