It’s being marketed as a down-and-dirty action machine, but beneath The Corruptor’s explosive body count is a rock-solid, visually slick crime thriller set in the squalid netherworld of Manhattan’s Chinatown. Mark Wahlberg, using his wary quietude to convey shrewdness, is Danny, a smart young cop with ambiguous loyalties who becomes partnered with Chen (Chow Yun-Fat), a Chinese officer whose relationship with the local tong dynasty has, over the years, grown too close for comfort. The stars trade their East-meets-West zingers with amusing hostile finesse, and Chow, the ferocious, baby-faced star of John Woo’s Hong Kong pictures, gets to play his first fully realized American-movie character, a man fighting to keep his balance as he walks the edge between corruption and valor.
The plot, a gnarled series of deceptions and betrayals, provides a vivid B-movie tour of everything from illegal-immigrant prostitution rings to cutthroat youth gangs to the rival crime-busting efforts of the NYPD and the FBI. As directed by the gifted James Foley (Glengarry Glen Ross), the film is like a sleeker, less overwrought Year of the Dragon merged with a gloss on Donnie Brasco. B