Director: James Foley
Stars: Chow Yun-Fat, Mark Wahlberg
Chow plays Nick Chen, a NYC cop who seems to be in control of the Asian gangs in Chinatown... but that is only because he is under the control of one of Chinatown's most powerful crime lords. Wahlberg plays a rookie sent in to assist Chow in cleaning up the streets. When the gangs learn of the white cop in the Asian Crime unit, they try their best to corrupt the new guy.
Since The Corruptor is such a mixed bag, I'll divide the review into three parts...
THE GOOD: Chow seems to be getting much more comfortable with acting in English. Unlike his previous film, The Replacement Killers, Chow gets to play a full character instead of a simple brooding hitman. Like many of his other roles, he brings little idiosyncracies to the role which make it unique. Mark Wahlberg is also quite good. Although he's no master thespian, there are a few scenes where he really does hit his mark (pardon the pun) and ultimately he's quite believable as the rookie cop. The plot is also fairly original, with the usual roles reversed (you don't usually see the Asian as the dominant character in a US cop movie) and a satisfying ending that (almost) loses most of the sugary-sweet crap tacked on to most Hollywood movies.
THE BAD: The Corruptor moves very slowly. It clocks in at just under two hours but feels longer. I think most of this comes from the fact that the film can't decide whether to be an action movie or a character study. Some films (such as Goodfellas or Beast Cops) pulled this off, but The Corruptor doesn't. A lot of time is wasted on subplots dealing with the main characters' relationships (Chow with his hooker "girlfriend", Wahlberg with his deadbeat dad). Supposedly these were put in to flesh the characters out, but I think the film would have been much more effective if it had just concentrated on the crime plot. Speaking of the plot, it does get a bit convoluted at times. I was never exactly sure why the Chinese gangs wanted Wahlberg on their side so bad. Again, if more attention was paid to the main plot this might not have been a problem.
Technically, The Corruptor both hits and misses. Director James Foley has worked very little within the action genre (the closest being Fear, which coincidentally also starred Mark Wahlberg) and it shows. He seems much more comfortable with the non-action scenes, which tend to be done very smoothly -- a couple (such as when Wahlberg gets the initial offer from the gang) are outstandingly shot and edited. While the action scenes offer all the elements (including Chow Yun-Fat briefly wielding two guns), they're put together in a style that literally gave me a headache after a while. The camera jumps about with no rhyme or reason, with strange spins and cuts that make you really appreciate the controlled chaos of a John Woo action sequence. All that being said, the scenes are still at least somewhat fun to watch -- but, really, how could they not be with Chow Yun-Fat involved?
THE UGLY: There's a lot of gratuitous sex and violence. While I am not against either of these elements, the proper use of them seperates a good film from a great one. For instance, there is a sex scene between Wahlberg and a hooker that really adds nothing to the movie (other than seeing his ass, if that turns your crank) -- again, it goes back to the pacing issues I brought up earlier. There are other scenes similar to that one which add really nothing to the movie. Maybe Foley got a case of "yellow fever" and wanted to see a lot of naked Asian women. Besides the aesthetic nature of these objections, sometimes the sex and violence interfere with the attempt of the filmmakers to create a reasonably realistic world. For instance, after a major car chase -- where several bystanders are shot or run over in ultra-violent fashion -- nothing happens to the cops. If this was a Lethal Weapon or Die Hard type movie, this might be passable. But in this instance, it (like many other elements in the movie) just doesn't cut it.
Ultimately, The Corruptor is a flawed but still somewhat satisfying movie that marks a step forward in Chow Yun-Fat's US career, if for nothing else, proving that he can indeed act in a Hollywood movie without constantly holding a gun.
RATING: 6.5Click here to view the trailer for this movie (clip courtesy of JoBlo's Trailers)
A review of the DVD for this movie can be found here
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