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THE CORRUPTOR

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Chow Yun-Fat, Mark Wahlberg
Director:  James Foley
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Widescreen 2.35:1, 16x9 Enhanced
Studio:  New Line Cinema
Features:  See Review
Length:  100 Minutes
Release Date:  September 14, 1999

Film ***

The Corruptor was largely panned by critics during its theatrical run, which is a bit of a shame.  This is one of the few action films that also has a moral issue or two at its core, and as such, gives you something to think about afterwards.  Itís also an action film with some legitimate drama, other than the typically forced damsel in distress type love story.  Then again, these aspects may have been the problem.  I suppose a lot of action fans might not have cared for the deeper issues that infiltrate the structure of the picture, and Iím not suggesting I think all films in this genre should be done this way.  But given what it is, The Corruptor manages to be a little different in spite of the many available temptations to be just another copy, and for that, Iím appreciative.

If there is one flaw in the film, itís the fact that for about the first hour, weíre kept in the dark as to what the real story is about.  It sets up in solidly familiar territory at first.  Danny Wallace (Wahlberg) is a young white cop assigned to the New York Chinatown beat, where a serious of Asian gang incidents have erupted.  His superior is an experienced cop, Nick Chen (Yun-Fat).  All the cop movie elements are in place.  It could be a buddy movie, or it could be another tough cop shows tenderfoot rookie the ropes picture.  It seems to be a story without a center.  But donít let it lose you just yet.

Then, the curtain is pulled back, and we finally see what the root of the story really is.  I wonít give away the surprise, but suffice to say, the film really picks up from there, as does the action and the drama.  Part of whatís at the root of the movie is the search for moral absolution, and whether or not it exists.  Case in pointÖas a cop, would you be willing to look the other way from a small time gambling and prostitute ring in exchange for information that allows you to clean up the more dangerous gangs, drug dealers, and killers?  Is your primary duty to uphold the law or to keep the streets as safe as possible, no matter what?  Naturally, you canít answer such questions without thoroughly examining your ideals to determine if theyíre worth as much as you hoped.  Itís not such an easy thing to say no to, particularly for the veteran cop whoís fished one too many corpses out of trash bins.

And giving the story credence are two remarkable actors in Yun-Fat and Wahlberg, both of whom are capable of exemplifying and transcending the action genre.  Asian film fans are no doubt familiar with Yun-Fatís impressive body of work, including his teamings with director John Woo, and how he has always been able to bring a sense of depth and conflict to his characters as they engage in their action.  And Wahlberg proves his breakout in Boogie Nights was no fluke, as the character in the film who has the most growing and realization to go through. 

But lest I get too wrapped up in the seriousness of the picture, I should reiterate that it is an action film, first and foremost.  Plenty of loud, two fisted gun play, some good stunt work, and the greatest car chase sequence Iíve seen since The French ConnectionÖand one that isnít afraid to address the age old issue about why innocent bystanders never seem to get hurt in those scenes.  All in all, you could say that itís a bit of a let down from Yun-Fatís John Woo pictures, but then, you could say that about a lot of films.

Video ****

Itís a Platinum Series disc from New LineÖneed I say more?  Okay, I will.  Spectacular anamorphic transfer, and reference quality throughout.  Sharp images, superb coloring, no evidence of compression or grain, even in the many darker scenes.  Director Foley seems to compose a lot of images with various color and lighting zones throughout (the lamp shop sequence is a good example).  These are where the transfer really shines, as various colors play against each other, as well as zones of lights against darks, and there is no bleeding or loss of image integrity to be found. 

Audio ****

It's a Platinum Series disc from New Line...need I say more?  This is an explosive 5.1 soundtrack that's everything you would want from an action film:  dynamic, lots of bass, loud music, and plenty of multi directional channeling.  Sequence after sequence make good use of the rear stage, with terrific balance and crossover from the front one, and harnesses the .1 channel to add extra oomph to the explosions, crashes, and music.  An excellent listen.

Features ****

Itís a Platinum Series disc from New LineÖneed I sayÖer, okay.  This is a fully loaded disc, including a commentary track by Foley, an extensive documentary with interviews, behind the scenes footage, marketing information, and even the great car chase sequence in its uncut and bloodier form.  Thereís also a trailer and a music video, plus considerable extras for your DVD ROM. 

Summary:

Itís definitely not movie escapism through action, but for fans who donít mind taking on a little extra and having something to stay with them after the experience, The Corruptor satisfies.  Itís a good story with appealing leads, and a little play on morality to mix in with the action fun.