The Corruptor

The Corruptor (1999)
New Line Home Entertainment
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Ric Young, Marc Wahlberg
Extras: Commentary track, Isolated Music Score, Theatrical Trailer, Documentary, Music Video, Screenplay and more...

New Line’s "The Corruptor" was Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun-Fat’s second film in Hollywood and as opposed to "The Replacement Killers" he finally has a real speaking part. It is a part in vein with many of the films that brought him to fame in Hong Kong. Director James Foley took it upon himself to create a story of corruption in New York City’s Chinatown and the result is a pounding action thriller of deception, violence and betrayal, that nicely blends Asian influences with Hollywood’s production values.

"The Corruptor" shows us a small Police squad team operating on the streets of New York’s Chinatown, a district riddled by gang violence and run by an organized crime regime. Although the crime lords are all well known, it is hard to bring them to justice. It is highly decorated Inspector Nick Chen’s (Chow Yun-Fat) job to keep an eye on these people with his team, in order to find their weak spots that would allow them to crack down on them eventually. To survive on the streets of Chinatown, Chen has cut a few personal deals with the local mobsters that guarantee him a good and most importantly a safe life.

One day a rookie, Danny Wallace (Mark Wahlberg), becomes part of the team and to everyone’s surprise he is white. Afraid the young police officer may get into trouble on the streets of Chinatown, and to protect himself, Chen demands to have him removed – unsuccessfully so. He starts training the aspiring cop who turns out to be quite familiar with Chinese customs and tradition, but before long he is faced by the ultimate challenge when Henry Lee (Ric Young) is offering him a deal. Like Chen, he too is suddenly tempted by the corruptor!

If to you Mark Wahlberg is still "Marky Mark", the hip teen singer/dancer from yesteryear, you might want to think again. Not only has he considerably grown as an actor in the past years, in the "Corruptor" he also shows us a very edgy side of his personality. Clean-cut at first, slowly dissipating into the dangerous ghetto life in Chinatown that is ruled by mobsters and gangs, Wahlberg manages to create a believable character with depth and true character.

The star of the film is undoubtedly Chow Yun-Fat however who ignites the screen with his presence and his calculating, yet charming personality. He is coming from a long history of films in Hong Kong, and many genre fans surely know him for his outstanding work in numerous John Woo movies, such as "Hard Boiled" and "The Killer". His status in Hong Kong is legendary and can easily be compared to the most popular A-list actors here in the States. Significant changes in the Hong Kong film industry have made Hollywood increasingly attractive among Asian film stars and the success of people like Jackie Chan, John Woo, Ronny Yu, Michelle Yeoh or Maggie Cheung has helped giving Hong Kong actors more exposure in our domestic market. After a slow start in Hollywood in "The Replacement Killers" Chow Yun-Fat is finally given free reigns in "The Corrputor" and can show what he’s really made of, a hard boiled character with a heart and a sense of honesty. Always living on the edge, we follow him into the netherworld of Chinatown, well knowing his implications and arrangements with the mob are not right. In situations where other actors may have problems maintaining credibility and sympathy, with ease Chow Yun-Fat manages the rift between his two on-screen personalities, closing the gap with charming mannerisms and well acted dialogues. Clearly, a film like "The Corruptor" is not resting on the backs of its main stars alone, and both are supported by an incredible cast of actors who bring the film to life, turning it into a serious and realistic milieu study instead of a glossy action thriller.

In a stylish packaging with Chinese symbols glossed on top of a matte cardboard packaging, "The Corruptor" is a release that makes a good impression from the start. The film is presented in a <$16x9,16x9 enhanced> <$PS,widescreen> transfer in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and the transfer is simply superb. Capturing every detail of the dark and gloomy underworld beneath the streets of Chinatown, this transfer is exemplary for the kind of quality you can get out of DVD. Razor-sharp without being over-enhanced the image is always solid without noise or visible film artifacts. The colors are deliberately subdued at times while other scenes use artsy lighting set-ups to enhance the movie’s edgy underworld feel. The color reproduction on this disc is perfect, also always keeping a good balance between shadows and highlights. The presentation of the transfer on this DVD is meticulous without any compression artifacts, <$pixelation,pixelation> or <$chroma,chroma noise>.

Using a <$5.1,5.1 channel> <$DD,Dolby Digital> soundtrack, what you hear from the speakers on this release is just as hard-hitting as the action in the film itself. Aggressive surround usage and a good bass extension define this soundtrack, making especially the action and gunplay scenes perfect showcase presentations for surround audio. Expect to hear bullets flying around you and cars racing through all audible dimensions in your living room.

Despite its aggressive use of the surround stage for its sonic effects, "The Corruptor" also contains a great score by Carter Burwell that is also presented as an isolated score on this release, fully with explanatory chapter stops for the score. The score masterfully blends modern hip-hop elements with traditional Oriental melodies, harmonies and instruments for an intriguing mix of an Asian culture in America. Perfect!

New Line’s Platinum Edition of "The Corruptor" is filled with extras, including a great running length commentary by director James Foley. One of the nice things about his <$commentary,commentary track> is that it also contains indexed chapter stops. With clear explanations what is being discussed at any time in the track, it is easy to jump to certain issues that may be interesting for each particular viewer, without having to go through the entire <$commentary,commentary track> linearly to locate information. It is a great extension of the features DVD offers and very well thought out. The same applies of course for the indexed chapter stops that are available in the isolated music score.

The <$commentary,commentary track> on this disc is not only informative and entertaining it is just as fast paced as the film itself, delivering much of the information at rapid-fire speed. Foley also does not miss the chance to discuss some of the issues he had with the MPAA in regards to the film’s violence. Several cuts were required to give the film the R-rating Foley was obligated to.

Fortunately these cuts are explored in further detail in the disc’s documentary called "From The Underground Up". Featuring numerous interviews and a good look behind the scenes, this segmented documentary has a slightly different feel than most other "Making Of" featurettes. Clearly separated segments cover various aspects of the film and its creation, including a lengthy look at how the film’s trailer came together, also showing other incarnations of the trailer as examples. The complete, uncut version of the film’s pivotal car chase scene that had been heavily victimized by the MPAA is also part of this encompassing documentary.

"The Corruptor" is a great example how the East meets the West, combining some of the best elements of Hong Kong action cinema with Hollywood bells and whistles. It is realistic, gritty and fast, but always intriguing. The cat-and-mouse game who’s bad and who’s good goes on until the final seconds of the film, stressing the fact that hardly anyone in this world is completely good or bad. We all walk a thin line, and sometimes we have to make decisions out of a given situation that may not be immediately comprehensible, but make sense in the overall picture.

This is a slick release from New Line Home Video, starting with the packaging and extending all the way to the cleverly integrated features and the cool menu designs that stay fully within the film’s context. But also the opening credits are simply stunning and well worth a look, assembling and animating the letters of the words "The Corruptor" in a fashion that they seem to become Chinese symbols. It is a fascinating release and one that you should not miss. Dealing with the moral dilemma of corruption within the ranks of the Police, "The Corruptor" is filled with incredible plot twists and a mesmerizing finale, while the DVD shows that a lot of attention has been paid to details. Make sure to give this film a good look!