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: (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
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