Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
Chow Yun Fat’s second Hollywood feature is far more sophisticated action crime thriller than “The Replacement Killers” that works better than most related genre films. “The Corruptor” allows a character study and goes deeper into the root problems of the police force, FBI and triads. Director James Foley smartly interplay the gritty and darker aspect of the vibrant New York Chinatown to display it as totally a foreign environment with crime at every corner. What makes this film a cut above its content beyond the excellent pairing of Chow and a young Mark Wahlberg is the deeper human conditions and dilemmas that it poses on the characters and ourselves.
Chow Yun Fat shows why he is a truly international superstar with both charm and subtle street-smartness required of the role as the decorated Chinese American cop existing between the brutal world of triads controlled Chinatown and the NYPD. Chow gets to play a detailed character and the script allows him to emotes and suitably shines in all dramatic scenes without overplaying. Mark Wahlberg plays the rookie assigned to follow Chow in Chinatown and with all the hallmarks of a fish out of water experience. Wahlberg gives the role a raw and conflicted performance that goes well with Chow’s more dominating character. Ric Young is always animated as the over the top stylistic and manipulative gangster boss and Bryon Mann stands out as a gangster rising up the ranks.
All in all, “The Corruptor” is the kind of film that was under appreciated upon its release and 21 years on, it is getting better with the ages. It is suitably engaging and deeply portraying more layers within the complicated human conditions and characters within the Chinatown crime world and the police force. Chow Yun Fat is outstanding and always demands a presence to seen and heard which is a rare quality of true star power. With a good story and good performances and well shot action scenes, it’s a shame that it didn’t make any splash at the box office back then. Time to make amends.
I rated it 7.5/10