Review: 'Corruptor' follows cop suey recipe
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By Reviewer Paul Tatara
(CNN) -- James Foley's "The Corruptor" is the action movie that shoulda been. It's the second American film from the supposedly charismatic Hong Kong action legend Chow Yun-Fat, and it co-stars Mark Wahlberg, the reformed Marky-Mark whose laid-back, almost Zen-like screen presence is always watchable, if not exactly overwhelming. (At least, not to me. My friend, Bill, says that Wahlberg is one of the sexiest men on earth, a judgment that Bill's far better equipped to make than I am. If you know what I mean.)
The movie even looks the way I'd like it to look, at least when the camera's roaming the streets. The macho activity takes place in New York's Chinatown, and the footage has that near-documentary, "French Connection" feel about it. Unfortunately, that turns out to be the only similarity to "The French Connection."
Foley simply doesn't let the film generate enough oomph. This kind of thing works best when it starts a bit slowly, then builds steam as we learn more and more about the characters' assorted obsessions (or fears, depending on what the director is trying to accomplish).
But "The Corruptor" stops and starts so often, you begin to feel like you're watching "a bunch of scenes" instead of a fully-gelled movie. And there's too many cop picture clichés to just let the obvious stuff slide by without some pronounced eye-rolling.
Wahlberg plays Daniel Wallace, a rookie cop who's been assigned to the Chinatown precinct. His hotheaded new partner, the veteran detective Nick Chen, is played by Yun-Fat. Nick is a relatively complex character in that it's never completely clear whether he's out-and-out corrupt or if he's simply bending the rules a little bit in order to exist in the gang-driven, gun-totin' world known as Chinatown. Not surprisingly, Daniel also starts to taste the forbidden fruit after a while.
I was in the exact neighborhood where the film was shot just this past weekend, and the main thing that struck me about the place is that it's very crowded and the street merchants sure do sell a lot of strange-looking fish.
That wouldn't be much of a basis for a movie, though, so the first big cliché is that Yun-Fat has to constantly remind Wahlberg that you need to play by different rules "down here." A wet-behind-the-ears white cop may think he can follow the accepted procedures to catch the bad guys, but that stuff won't work in Chinatown because.
That's not a typo; I'm actually done with the sentence. Every time somebody gets mixed up with Chinese gangs in the movies, we're just supposed to embrace the idea that the "rules don't apply here," as if Chinese criminals are making it up as they go along. Or maybe Caucasians can't comprehend secret codes of honor because they've loaded up on too much mayonnaise over the years.
Either way, Wahlberg is continually getting into tight situations that explode into wall-splintering gunplay when he least expects it, mostly because he's a young white guy.
Daniel slowly learns the dance steps, of course, especially when he gets a tip and stumbles upon a basement full of Chinese girls who are being used as pay-per-violation sex slaves.
Dead prostitutes have been popping up in Dumpsters (eye roll), and Daniel is the only cop who seems to care (eye roll) because all the other guys have grown too cynical after long, fruitless years on the beat (eye roll, eye roll). After seeing all these innocent young women being abused in that basement, Daniel starts going after the big guys with a vengeance.
I was getting really, really tired of it by this point. The action scenes themselves aren't incompetent, but there's something oddly so-what about them. You get everything you're expecting -- guys start shooting two pistols at a time in slow motion, then one of them slides across the floor, firing away as the glassware shatters -- but you get next-to-nothing that's unique to this particular film.
Even a car chase that looked like it might finally get things cooking on high heat is shot in such a rudimentary manner, I didn't really care.
Yun-Fat tries real hard, but that's part of the problem. He's always making bizarre gestures at the end of especially forceful sentences, pointing into thin air at things that aren't there and getting all wild-eyed while he grits his teeth. This might be considered charisma in some quarters, but I couldn't help feeling like I was watching an especially strange-looking fish, albeit one with a shoulder holster.
There's lots of sex and violence in "The Corruptor." If you act now, you get both male and female nudity - including a lengthy glimpse of what Cheech and Chong would call Wahlberg's fanny perpendicular. Everybody cusses a lot, too, though I'd yelp out a steady stream myself if people were always shooting at me. Rated R. 111 minutes.
"The Corruptor" is a production of CNN Interactive sister company New Line Cinema, a Time Warner property.
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