For a certain generation of action film fans there was always hope of one day the great stars of Hong Kong would wind up in America. For those who went to Chinatown video stores to track down films starring Chow Yun-fat, Jackie Chan and Jet Li the desire to see them in the American studio system, so they could show their talents properly, was unfulfilled when the first wave of films wound up coming out. The trio has gone from the kings of Hong Kong action cinema to significantly lesser status for American audiences en masse.
Jet Li is best known for a certain generation of fans as the short guy in The Expendables.
Jackie Chan is the straight man to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour franchise, as well.
Chow Yun-fat may be the saddest of them all. While he ruled the Hong Kong cinemas as the Asian equivalent to Arnold Schwarzenegger, eschewing elaborate fighting sequences for gun battles, his highest profile work was a throwaway role in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. The attempt at his sort of action hero awesomeness never translated as effectively for any number of reasons; he never had his American Hard Boiled like so many wanted for him. After The Replacement Killers gave him about as good a starting point as he could have, his choice of pictures never matched his earlier output in Hong Kong. The Corruptor was an attempt at a gritty, Hong Kong style action film that placed Yun-fat with a surging Mark Wahlberg in New York’s Chinatown.
It was supposed to be the pairing of two stars looking to break out. Wahlberg would take some time before he went from former musician turned A-lister, of course, and Yun-fat has almost exclusively worked out of Asia. This was the sort of matchup that Chan and Tucker wound up having … and Li could never find no matter which rapper turned actor he was paired up with.
Simple premise. Chen (Yun-fat) is a member of the Asian crime unit in the NYPD who’s recently been paired with Wallace (Wahlberg). Wallace is also there on behalf of Internal Affairs, as they think Chen is corrupt. From there it’s a gritty jaunt through the Asian underworld for the duo as figuring out who’s on what side, among other things.
The film’s problem is that it has all the right pieces together but is missing the right combination of putting them together. James Foley was an interesting choice then, never known for action, and in retrospect his career essentially was built on the commercial success of Who’s that Girl? and critical success of Glengary Glen Ross. He hasn’t made a film since 2007’s flop Perfect Stranger. The Corruptor was the film that signified that the two hits he had were more of a fluke than anything else. He’s the exact wrong director for this sort of film, lacking a sort of fluidity to his story telling manner that the film really needs.
The film’s other problem is that it’s a solid script but not a brilliant one. There’s enough genre goodness to keep it entertaining in spurts but ultimately it doesn’t give either of its main stars anything interesting to do. The film itself is good genre fun but doesn’t have that final gear to make it go from being a pale imitation of a Hong Kong thriller to a good Hong Kong type thriller set in America.
The same extras from the DVD are included and aren’t much.
Warner Bros presents The Corruptor. Directed by James Foley. Written by Robert Pucci. Starring Chow Yun-fat, Mark Wahlberg. Run Time: 110 minutes Rated R. Released on DVD: 4.7.2015
Tags: Chow Yun Fat, James Foley, Mark Wahlberg, The Corruptor