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The Corruptor

Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Mark Wahlberg
Director: James Foley
Genre: Action
Year: 1999
Rating: 3 / 5

Expectations. So much about the enjoyment of a film depends on expectations, so it is paramount that one enter The Corruptor in the right frame of mind. This action thriller is anything but original, and verging on quite formulaic. No new ground is crossed, and, save one intriguing plot twist in the middle of the film, the genre is in no way advanced with this film. That being said, The Corruptor is worth the price of admission for one thing only: Chow Yun-Fat. In only his second foray into Hollywood (the other being the mildly entertaining Replacement Killers), the Asian action superstar lights up the screen, literally oozing cool.

The first white cop in the Asian Crime Unit, Danny Wallace (Mark Wahlberg) is looked upon as an outsider from the outset, especially by his partner, Nick Chen (Chow Yun-Fat). Chen's tight-knit crew has a certain way of doing business - the Chinatown way - and Wallace does not actually appear to be street-savvy. There is a street war going on between the upstart Fukienese, run by Bobby Vu, and the Tongs, headed up by Benny Wong and Henry Lee (Ric Young). As they are portrayed, the Fukienese are the more violent faction, while the Tongs merely want to bring necessary services to the people (ala Al Capone in the 1930s).

Into this boiling mixture, we add a pair of federal investigations: one into possible corruption in the Asian Crime Unit, and one a sting operation aimed at Benny Wong. As Wallace roams the mysterious New York neighborhood, it becomes increasingly apparent that the lines which separate the warring gangs are blurred at best, and that, more distressingly, the lines between these gangs and officers of the law are all too real. As the unit begins to uncover pieces of an illegal immigrant slave trade, allegiances become strained, and corruption may or may not be at the center of it all.

Mark Wahlberg (The Big Hit) surprised me with a rather effective performance as a young cop assigned to Chen's crack squad, doing an admirable job in his fish-out-of-water role. Nonetheless, The Corruptor is nothing without Chow Yun-Fat, who possesses a rare magnetic screen persona, compelling the viewer to follow his every move. His improving grasp of English can only further his increased notoriety in North America, and he puts this knowledge on display throughout the film. Ric Young delivers an enjoyable performance as the smooth Henry Lee, giving a little more life to the formulaic role into which he is cast. If action, gunfire, explosions, and violence interest you, then this is the movie for you. Besides, as Chow Yun-Fat continues to grow stateside, one can always look back at The Corruptor as one of the all-important building blocks along the way.

Cast:
Chow Yun-Fat..........Nick Chen
Mark Wahlberg..........Danny Wallace
Ric Young..........Henry Lee
Byron Mann..........Bobby Vu

Certification: Rated R for violence, language, and sexuality.
Running Time: 100 minutes.

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[critics]