NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Joanna.
Billy Taggert (Mark Walhberg), is a cop who stands with a gun over a dead body in NYC, in a dark alley at night.
We cut to daytime in the city. People are protesting to get Billy to go to jail. In the courtroom, he is on trial for the murder of Mikey Tavarez. His attorney argues that Mikey was shooting at him and had a gun, but it seems like this is one of those cases where no one believes him.
Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) is on Billy’s side. Mikey was a rapist and killer himself, and he’s happy he’s gone. Carl Fairbanks (Jeffrey Wright), the chief of police, approaches the mayor with new evidence. They bring Billy in after he’s found not guilty and Hostetler tells him that in light of the new evidence he has to resign from the police department, but no one can know about it (the evidence).
Seven years later:
Billy is now a private investigator. He fights with someone in an alley just to get a picture. He comes home, and his girlfriend Natalie (Natalie Martinez) fixes him up, wanting to know when this will end. She’s an actress and has a premiere coming up. We hear on the radio that there is a new race for mayor and Hostetler is running for reelection.
Billy goes to his office, and his secretary Katy Bradshaw (Alona Tal) tells him that they’re broke. They have cleared $18 thousand but are owed $42 thousand. They make a bunch of phone calls to get their money, but everyone argues with him on the phone. The mayor calls him. We see on the news that he sells the entire Bolton Village for $4 million dollars to make it nicer right before the election. On the news, they make it seem like he is doing something horrible.
Billy goes to see him. They joke and talk for a few minutes. He tells him that he wants him to find the man who is having sex with his wife everything about him. He wants it settled before the election. He offers him $50,000 and gives him half up front.
The next morning Natalie is on her way out. She wants him to go out with her actor friends, and he reluctantly agrees. Billy goes out and starts to spy on Cathleen Hostetler (Catherine Zeta-Jones), the mayor’s wife. She is speaking at a benefit talking about equality in NYC. He continues to follow her and sees her get out of her car with a man. He follows them through the park and takes some pictures but can’t get a picture of his face (it’s Paul Andrews, played by Kyle Chandler).
The mayor talks to his wife at home. She asks him if he saw her speech, but he hadn’t. However he asks her why she didn’t mention the election. He sounds a bit threatening with her. The next day, Billy and Katy go to a restaurant so he can take a picture of Cathleen. She wants to know why the mayor called him, but before he can answer they leave to follow Cathleen as she has left also. They go separate ways so they can see different things and talk on the phone about what is happening. He bumps into her so he can steal her phone and write down the number of the person she was just arranging a meeting with. Katy goes after her to give her back the phone. Instead of following her, they go back to the office and track the number. It’s Paul Andrews, the campaign manager for the opposing candidate, Jack Valliant (Barry Pepper), that is having the affair with Cathleen.
Billy starts to follow Paul and sits near him on the LIRR train. Hostetler plays racquetball with his friend Sam Lancaster (Griffin Dunne). He says his numbers are steady, and it always goes to the incumbent. Sam tells him that he has half a million in the campaign and more on the result how will he win? Nick tells him that he has some dirt on him that they are going to release. Meanwhile on the train Paul starts to talk to Billy. He asks him who he will vote for mayor. He recommends the new guy. They start talking, and Billy tells him that he works in sanitation. They’re at the last stop so they both have to get off. Billy starts to spy on him and takes pictures of Paul and Cathleen.
That night Billy goes with Natalie to the celebration dinner for her film. We find out that she changed her name because she was the sister of a girl who was raped, beaten, and killed by Mikey.
At campaign headquarters, Jack Valliant and Paul argue. Jack is flipping out about the election thinking he will lose. Paul tells him that if he sticks to the issues he will win, but if he goes to the debate and uses negative blows at the mayor he will be destroyed, but Jack is just not happy.
Billy goes to a fundraiser with the mayor and all the important people of the city. He talks to Murdock, a friend of Hostetler and doesn’t trust him. Billy is called upstairs by Cathleen. She offers him a drink, and we find out that ever since the trial 7 years ago he doesn’t drink. She knows he’s been tailing her. She offers him $50,000 to stop following her. She tells him that if he thinks he’s investigating adultery, he doesn’t know Nicholas very well. They get off the elevator and are approached by Hostetler. He and Cathleen have a hostile exchange right in front of Billy. Billy and Hostetler go off to talk. Billy doesn’t want to show him the pictures, but Hostetler takes them anyway. He gives Billy the rest of the money and tells him that they’re done with it now.
Natalie and Billy go to her premiere for the indie film Kiss of Life. Billy can’t watch the very graphic sex scenes in the film and is upset by them. Later at the restaurant, Billy starts to drink. Natalie sees this and approaches him. He keeps drinking, and they argue. Now drunk, he asks her if she slept with the guy in the movie (she told him that it was a little love scene). They walk out of the place, and she’s about to break up with him when Billy attacks the actor from the movie. Billy leaves and gets a phone call.
Carl the commissioner calls Billy to a crime scene. There’s been a homicide. Paul has been killed, and they got him down there to find out what he has to do with it. Why was he, a poor man, at a fundraiser for the mayor, when Paul was now killed? He admits that he gave Hostetler pictures, but that’s it. The commissioner wants to take Hostetler down. They go inside the apartment and find Jack very upset. Billy tries to comfort him, but he’s drunk and upset. He keeps calling Carl a whore and not a real cop. He has Billy dump his head in a full bathtub to “clear his mind.” He tells them Paul went downstairs to meet Todd Lancaster, Sam’s son, who said he was ashamed of his father, Sam. That was the last time Jack saw him. He’s upset saying he let him die alone. Carl assures him that he will be the next mayor of NYC, and they will get him out of there quietly.
Outside, Carl talks to Hostetler who has now arrived at the crime scene. Billy takes Jack away.
Cathleen watches her husband on the news in a press conference talking about the murder. He even says that Paul was a good friend of his wife. Billy tells Katy that Paul wasn’t having an affair with Cathleen and to find out everything they can on Todd Lancaster. He rips up the check from the mayor and blames himself. While wandering around trying to clear his mind, he sees a mural of Natalie’s sister that was killed. He goes to see her parents. He asks them how they could have stayed there after their daughter was killed. Where would they go?
Billy goes to meet with Cathleen. She tells him that they were just friends. He wasn’t hired to find her lover, he was hired to find her source. She discovered information about her husband a long time ago. She offered him a deal get a divorce, and she wouldn’t say anything. He didn’t take the deal. Paul gave her the information. The Bolton Village that Nick sold was worth twice as much as that. Billy wants to bring him down because he set him up and Cathleen reminds him, he is a dangerous man.
Katy calls Billy with information on Todd Lancaster. He works for his father’s construction company. Weird that his father is one of Nick’s biggest supporters yet Todd and Paul were best friends. She tells him to be careful because of what just happened to Paul. He finds Todd and starts digging through the trash outside. He finds the Bolton Village Demolition Plan. Inside the office, he sees a fight and lots of shredding going on. He steals the box that had the demo plan and tries to leave, but someone attacks his car, breaking his rear view window and following him in a high speed chase. Billy crashes and is knocked unconscious. The cops show up and tell him that they will catch the guy because there is a camera. Billy meets with Carl. He tells him what he found about Bolton Village. Carl tells him that those papers are useless, and there’s more. Todd was meeting with Paul that night to bring him a contract, but now Todd is scared to say anything.
Hostetler and Jack are at their debate. They talk about fiscal responsibility and how Hostetler sells homes out from under people. Jack reveals the truth about Bolton Village it was purchased to make office buildings, not residential homes. They continue to argue in the debate, and Jack says that nothing will ever change if men like Hostetler continue to get elected. Hostetler defends himself saying things have changed, they have a 3 billion dollar surplus, etc. The original question in the debate was what Jack would have done to reverse the debt but Nick doesn’t let him answer.
Billy and Katy head over to Todd’s. Billy attacks him saying he knows that Todd set Paul up. He puts a gun to his head, and Todd insists that he didn’t do anything and Paul was his friend. Paul says he didn’t know, and he was just there to give Paul something. He was going to give him something to help Jack win. He doesn’t care that his father is friends with Hostetler. He saw Murdock shoot Paul in the head and show up to work the next day like nothing had happened. He gives Billy the contract.
Billy goes and attacks Murdock. He then goes to see the mayor. He asks him why he lied to him and asks for the truth. He tells him that he hired him to investigate his wife, and if he doesn’t mind his business he’ll hire someone to investigate him. Billy tells him everything he knows. Hostetler tells him that everything he does is for the city. He takes out the contract and tells him that with one click of the button 100 different newsmen will know the truth. He tells him to step down, but he refuses. Hostetler shows him a video he has of the murder of Mikey 7 years ago it wasn’t self defense. He gives him a copy of the video now there is nothing Billy can do.
Billy goes home, but Natalie isn’t there. He goes to Carl he has the whole conversation on tape because he was wired. He tells Carl it’s ok use it. He’ll accept responsibility for what he did 7 years ago.
Hostetler is at a celebration after the debate saying how he beat Jack. Billy calls him. Carl and the cops show up and arrest him. As he is being arrested Hostetler threatens him.
Jack is now a lock to win the election. Billy is at a bar and Carl goes to pick him up he has to bring him in. Billy says goodbye to Katy and he’ll be back soon.