The Corruptor, Chow Yun-Fat's second and latest American effort is better than the first, The Replacement Killers, in terms of plot and character development but is lacking in terms of action and pacing.
The plot is fairly convoluted and involved: Nick Chen (Chow) is a New York City police officer of Chinese ethnicity. Working out of Chinatown, Nick is joined by Danny Wallace (Mark Wahlberg), a white officer. Initially Chen resents Danny (as should be expected), but over time a bond grows between the two of them. Together they have to stop Henry Vu (Byron Mann), the leader of the vicious Fukienese Dragons who are waging a gang war against Uncle Benny (Kim Chan) and the Triads.
That's how it appears on the surface. But both Nick and Danny harbour secrets and problems of their own. Nick, like most cops, is on the take and allies himself with the Triads. Danny is saddled with a father who was an ex-cop who served time in prison and now faces death threats from a loan shark. Initially Danny appears to be a novice, but his main goal is to expose Nick. This proves to be easier said than done as both of them fall deeper under the influence of the corruptor, Henry Lee (Ric Young), who has his own aspirations for gaining control of Chinatown.
The acting by both Chow and Wahlberg is decent, though the latter seems a bit out of place. There is no character development among the villains; that I think would've made for a better film. Chow's English has advanced tremendously: unlike in The Replacement Killers where he barely utters a few words, this time he sings Sinatra songs. His charisma is also allowed to come out more in this film. However, The Corruptor simply doesn't seem to have the punch of Hard Boiled or even The Replacement Killers. Perhaps it is because of lack of a kinetic director, such as John Woo, at the helm. The highlight of the film is the car chase through Chinatown which appears to have been filmed in a strangely unhurried manner. Some strikingly stylish scenes, such as the one where Danny discovers a vault imprisoning female illegal immigrants, are effective.
The problem with movies like The Corruptor is that there's little that is memorable about it. There is no take home message and after you've left the film, you question why you accepted the premises you did. However, it is an enjoyable time killer and definitely worth the matinee fare.