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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review
The Corruptor (1999)

Directed by James Foley
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Mark Wahlberg, Ric Young, Paul Ben-Victor, Brian Cox, Andrew Pang, Byron Mann, Elizabeth Lindsey, Marie Matiko.
1999 – 111 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for violence, profanity, nudity, and sexual situations).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, March 13, 1999.

One of the things I noticed most while watching acclaimed-director James Foley's ("At Close Range," "Glengarry Glen Ross," "Fear") first foray into the action genre, "The Corruptor," is that there were a lot of subtle signs of disappearances throughout, most notably filmmaking skill, intelligence, and even one of the fundamental things you need to survive: a brain. Chinese action star Chow Yun-Fat made his U.S. film debut last year in "The Replacement Killers," and although no award winner, at least it contained style and the much-needed appearance of the wonderful actress Mira Sorvino. Unfortunately, the style of the former film is replaced in "The Corruptor" with generic, deadeningly boring shoot-outs, and in place of Sorvino is the less-talented Mark Wahlberg who, like everyone else, sleepwalks through his role.

Wahlberg stars as Danny Wallace, a young, caucasian cop who is partnered with Nick Chen (Yun-Fat), a detective in the 15th Precinct's Asian Gang Unit, to stop a gang war in Chinatown between the Fukienese Dragons, and the Tongs, led by Henry Lee (Ric Young). Wallace and Chen are basically the polar opposites of each other (aren't they always?), but gradually become good friends (don't they always?).

And that's it. That's the highly "intricate" story of "The Corruptor," which could have saved a lot of people the time and money if the filmmakers had realized this exact same premise has been done so many times before, and better, that it was pointless to make it again. To pad out the excruciatingly long 111-minute running time for such a one-note film, screenwriter Robert Pucci (who doesn't deserve to work in Holywood ever again) has opted to include a smattering of one-dimensional, cliched sub-plots, including one involving Wallace's money-grubbing father (Brian Cox), and another in which the two central characters' identities come into question. Although I had to dig pretty hard for this compliment, there is one (but only one) element that I felt had potential, and that was the relationship between Chen and a sweet prostitute named May (Maria Mitiko) whom he wants to get out of danger.

Of course, this chance of adequacy was stripped to the bare minimum of involvement and development, and Mitiko, a promising new face, showed a lot of potential in a five-minute role (if that).

Aside from that ridiculously small distraction, "The Corruptor" really is a brain-dead action movie of the worst type, one without thought or excitement. All of the characters were thoroughly unlikable and uninteresting, and so when the main characters' lives were put into danger, I found myself wondering why director Foley would think that we, the audience, would even remotely care about what was happening. There's no time to get acquainted with anyone and no apparent screenplay to help us in even trying to. Like most of the recent reprehensible Jean-Claude Van Damme and Steven Seagal movies, "The Corruptor" is constantly on auto-pilot from anything resembling believability or originality, and so far Yun Fat has not in any way impressed me with his action star status.

Although not a fan of Jackie Chan, at least you can always see that he is giving his own 200% in everything he does.

One of the most annoying elements of "The Corruptor" is in the stereotypical way that the villains are presented. Not only are we not given the chance to know the villains by name, but I was never really sure exactly what their goal was, except that there was an on-going war between the two gangs. At any rate, by the half-hour mark, I had already begun to understand the manner in which they were treated. It never failed: in every single scene in which the "bad guys" appeared, a repetitive, loud rap song would burst onto the soundtrack; I guess that was Foley's way of introducing them. Bad Guy = rap music. Okay, got it.

If anything, this is the first movie I can remember seeing in which one of the baddies points a gun at a man, to which the targetted man responds, "no, hold on," and pulls out his own gun and shoots himself in the head!

As for the supposedly shocking twist during the climax, my b.s. detector was sounding off like a steam engine. This same "twist" is now being recycled over and over in every other action/cop movie nowadays, and so there's no use in hiding the secret. Suffice to say, either Chen or Wallace isn't who he says he is, and their newfound buddy-buddy relationship suddenly is put at stake.

"The Corruptor" is a film that is so constantly struggling for ideas that it really is quite amusing when you think about it. Here we have director James Foley, a man who has made good films in the past, paired with Chow Yun-Fat and Mark Wahlberg (so very good in "Boogie Nights"), who most likely wasted at least a year of his life bringing this no-brainer to the screen. Someone should have really spoken up during the pre-production stage and broken the news that this was not a movie that was exactly begging to be made. With all of the rainforests being torn down and people dying of hunger in the world, it boggles the mind at why New Line Cinemas actually had the nerve to waste millions of dollars on a piece of wretched trash like this.

©1999 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman