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The Corruptor
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"Smell this!"

Chow Yun-Fat gives us the finger in The Corruptor.
 
Year: 1999  
Director: James Foley  
  Producer: Dan Halsted, Oliver Stone, Terence Chang
  Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Mark Wahlberg, Ric Young, Paul Ben-Victor, Marie Matiko, Jon Kit Lee, Byron Mann, Kim Chan, Brian Cox
  The Skinny: Chow-Yun Fat and Mark Wahlberg hit the mean streets of New York's Chinatown in this underrated crime drama from Glengarry Glen Ross director James Foley.
Review by Calvin McMillin:      On the outside, Detective Nick Chen (Chow Yun-Fat) is a virtual poster boy for both the NYPD and the Asian American community: good looking, smart, and a damn fine police officer. But underneath his winning veneer lies a dirty, little secret. It seems that Nick's success came with a price—he's actually on the take from local triads and has been for years. Of course, Nick started out on the force with the best of intentions, but when he couldn't make any real headway in the chaotic morass known as Chinatown, he befriended Uncle Benny (Kim Chan), a small-time hood turned underworld kingpin. It's a winning combination for the two; Nick looks out for Benny's interests, and the would-be godfather takes care of Nick in return. On some level, Nick realizes that by shaking hands with the devil he's damned his very soul, but the film also makes it clear that Nick's saved countless lives in the process. Good cop or bad cop? Such is the dilemma of James Foley's excellent 1999 film, The Corruptor, an overlooked morality tale which is often erroneously written off as a mere John Woo wannabe.
     This picture is Chow Yun-Fat's second U.S. film, and as is customary with crossover vehicles, the HK superstar gets an American partner, in this case, Mark Wahlberg. In his role as greenhorn detective Danny Wallace, the former Marky Mark is an apt foil for Chow's world-weary, slightly crooked copper. As the story progresses, the seemingly naïve and incorruptible Danny tries to stay honest in a world where every man has his price. But when the titular "corruptor", Henry Lee (Ric Young, not the O.J. forensics guy), offers Danny what he wants the most (putting crooks behind bars), how can someone truly devoted to "making a difference" refuse? Nick, however, has other ideas for his partner's future. The elder detective doesn't want Danny to compromise his morals as he himself has done, alluding to his own problems in an early exchange with the rookie. "You don't change Chinatown," Chen tells his new partner, "it changes you." As he takes Danny in under his wing, Nick makes for a curious mother hen—stern, caring, and deadly with a gun.
     In the end, the film raises several questions: is Nick ultimately a bad cop or a good one? Do the ends ever justify the means? What is the nature of justice? What is the nature of good? Though these questions make for compelling cinema, it also doesn't hurt that amidst the social commentary there's a good helping of gun battles, car chases and double-crosses. They even throw in a few nubile hookers just for good measure. Though The Corruptor ties things up rather neatly by story's end, the questions about "heroism" remain for the viewers and the characters themselves. To appropriate a line from that famous Roman Polanski-Jack Nicholson film, "Forget it, Nick. It's Chinatown." (Calvin McMillin, 2003)
Notes: • Curiously, actor Kim Chan plays a similar triad boss also named "Uncle Benny" in the previous year's Lethal Weapon 4.
Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
New Line Home Video
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
English Language
Dolby Digital 5.1
Audio Commentary, Isolated Score, Music Video, Trailers
 

image courtesy of New Line Home Video

   
 
 
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