The Corruptor promises a mix of Hong Kong style action with a gritty New York cop drama, and it partially delivers each. The action sequences are entertaining, but not electric; the drama is interesting, but hardly original.
The Corruptor opens as a standard buddy cop flick, with rookie Danny Wallace (Mark Wahlberg) being assigned to the Asian Crime Unit under the reluctant tutelage of Nick Chen (Chow Yun-Fat). Chen is the type of cop who is willing to cause millions of dollars of damage if it means the bad guy goes down. He doesn’t particularly appreciate being saddled with a rookie, especially in these tough times.
Chinatown is under a severe gang war. The long established Tong mob, led by the venerable Uncle Benny (Kim Chan), is confronted with the young and violent Fukinese Dragons. The cops from the ACU aren’t expected to solve anything. Rather, their job is to try and keep the violence to a minimum in order to protect tourism.
It soon becomes clear that Detective Chen is on the Tong payroll… but is he a bad cop? That’s a question the young Danny must answer, and quickly too, as he soon finds himself approached by Tong agents. Will the lure of quick cash amid a hopeless situation corrupt Danny as well?
Fans of Chow Yun-Fat will be happy to know that the Hong Kong action superstar is much more at ease in his second Hollywood film than his first, The Replacement Killers. The bullets fly fast and furious, and, though director James Foley is no John Woo when it comes to an action sequence, he is able to make the action tense and somewhat exciting.
But the highly unrealistic action sequences seem out of place in this gritty crime drama that, apparently, is intended to be steeped in the truth. Even for those accustomed to taking their cop movies with a grain of salt, The Corruptor proves hard to swallow.
One of the problems is with Mark Wahlberg’s character. He starts out believably as a green rookie, stunned motionless at the first gunfight he encounters. However, as the film progresses, his character quickly metamorphoses into a savvy super action hero, complete with an encyclopedic knowledge of Chinese. Audience members who leave to fetch popcorn might think they’ve returned to the wrong movie.
Ignoring the film’s excesses, the plot of The Corruptor is at least interesting, if a bit routine. The story of cops on the take has been analyzed before by countless other films and TV shows. The Corruptor does manage to throw in an interesting twist or two, but it wraps things up a bit too neatly…robbing the characters of the opportunity to make a tough moral decision.
The action sequences of The Corruptor wouldn’t be terribly compromised if viewed on the small screen…a place where the cop drama elements would seem right at home.