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Site created 12/15/97.

review added: 10/12/99

The Corruptor
New Line Platinum Series - 1999 (1999) - New Line

review by Todd Doogan, special to The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

The Corruptor Film Ratings: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A+/A/A

Specs and Features

110 mins, R, widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual-layered (layer switch at 1:36:26 in chapter 21), Snapper case packaging, commentary by director James Foley, music video for Take it Off by UGK, isolated musical score with additional commentary by Carter Burwell, theatrical trailer, cast and crew bios, making of documentary: From the (Under)Ground Up, DVD-ROM features (screenplay with scene links, and links to cast & crew IMDB bios), film-themed menu screens with animation, scene access (23 chapters), language: English (DD 5.1) and (DD 3.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

"You don't change Chinatown, boy, it changes you."

I'm probably the biggest Chow Yun-Fat fan in the world. I think he's the coolest person making films, and he's definitely one of the nicest people to meet, know or work with. I'm incredibly happy he's finding success in the Hollywood system, because he deserves to win crossover acclaim. He's one talented actor, and if you look at the range of films that he's done in Hong Kong, you'd know he's bigger than the gun blazing action star most know him for. He's a talented comedian and dramatist -- hell, anything he wants to do, he can do. For now, most American audiences know him for his John Woo-directed films that have crossed over, his first American film, The Replacement Killers, and now The Corruptor.

The Corruptor follows a young white cop who joins the A.G.U. (Asian Gang Unit), a division of the New York Police Department that focuses on the Chinatown area, and the various gangs that run it. Their job is essentially to protect the tourists. As is pointed out, the criminal element is there (and always will be) -- the A.G.U.'s job is to keep their activity from spilling into the street. Of course, some criminal elements are more powerful than others, and when the Fukienese Dragons grab for more power than they should have, the cops end up being played off of the other criminal elements by a criminal puppet master, Henry Lee (Ric Young). The new cop is Danny Wallace, played by Mark Wahlberg. Danny's young, idealistic, and in love with all things Chinese. He might also be more than he originally appears to be. But we're not going to discuss that for now. The star cop in the A.G.U. is Lieutenant Nick Chen (Chow Yun-Fat), who may also be more than he's letting on. The two meet, and while there's not a whole lot of trust between them, they eventually become close allies. Hey, what do you know? The Corruptor is a high brow cop buddy movie.

Ever since the film came out, there has been a bit of back and forth over whether this is a good movie or not. It is. It's no Hard-Boiled, nor is it Boogie Nights -- both Chow and Wahlberg shined brighter in their roles in those respective films. But The Corruptor isn't a wasted film. The characters are well-structured, most (but not all) plot devices work, and very little seems totally over the top. It's one of those movies where you have to throw away all logic, and just surrender yourself to the story. Chow is great in this role. He delivers a fine performance, and shows even more of his trademark charisma then he was able to in The Replacement Killers. I don't think it's really fair to slam The Corruptor because it isn't up to speed with his earlier HK stuff. The most important thing is, Chow is making films here, and so far, they're pretty good (I'd like better, but that'll have to wait until he works with John Woo again, and brings home a 100 million-dollar film). Wahlberg is okay -- a bit out of his element, but not bad. I would have liked to have seen John C. Reilly in the film as Danny. That would have been sweet.

The film itself is fast movie, most of the supporting characters are well acted and just as well defined. You understand where everyone is coming from, and you know where most are headed. It's not going to win any awards, but as it stands, it's a very fun movie that deserves to be seen. And so, why not see it on DVD?

As DVDs go, this one is the bomb. The transfer is a very sweet 16x9 with really vibrant colors, solid blacks and sharp detail. This is a real A+ job, and it's exactly what you'd expect from New Line's Platinum Series. The Corruptor is a visual powerhouse on DVD. The sound isn't half-bad either. It's a DD 5.1 house shaker, with full bass that should rock your foundation right from the opening explosion. The DD 3.0 track isn't half bad either. This is a very well produced disc in terms of picture and sound quality. But DVDs aren't just about pictures and sound, right?

Well, for those looking for a bit extra, this disc is loaded. There's a music video for UGK, the original trailer, cast and crew information, and the usual New Line DVD-ROM bonuses of "Script-To-Screen" (where you can read a scene in the script and jump to it in the flick) and a weblink to the IMDB. That would be a lot for most discs, but The Corruptor doesn't stop there. There's a really well done documentary, that follows the making of the film, from the initial research, to the input of the actors involved. Brim-filled with interviews and commentary by the director, writer and stars, the documentary also takes a look at the making of the trailer, and the film's marketing campaign. New Line has always been known as a studio that knows how to sell its product, and this look behind-the-scenes proves it. For those not happy with that, the documentary also pulls together the extended uncut car chase scene from the film, as the director originally envisioned it.

And there's still more -- James Foley also provides a well-structured commentary track, that has an index available on the disc so you can go right to a concept he might cover. He's a good listen, and talks about a multitude of things (that you may not have thought about) that went into the making of this thriller. This isn't the best track I've ever heard, but you'll learn a few things and that's what's important. One last nice extra, is the isolated score by Carter Burwell. It's an incredibly layered soundtrack, that should definitely be listened to on it's own. The gaps are filled with Burwell talking about the influences on the music, and what he did to achieve the score. I can't get over how nice this special edition is. Like I said above, The Corruptor on DVD is a very nice package.

Strict HK fans may not be happy with this film, but they should be. It's a good sign of great things to come from Chow, and the influence HK cinema has had on mainstream Hollywood. Heck -- when James Foley, a man known more for his dark character stories, dives headlong into an HK-style action flick, you know a wind of change is blowing. For me, The Corruptor is a well-made action film, with heart and a pretty good cast. You can't really go wrong with this one on your shelves, and if you don't believe me, rent it and see how quick you'll be willing to shell out the full price to own it yourselves.

Todd Doogan
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