Blu-ray Review: The Corruptor

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New to Blu-ray on April 7 from Warner Bros. is the 1999 police thriller The Corruptor. This violent tale of unlikely NYPD partners investigating gang activity was directed by James Foley (probably best known for helming Glengarry Glen Ross) and stars Chow Yun-fat and Mark Wahlberg. The former had only recently transitioned to the U.S. film market, while the latter had only recently begun being treated as a serious actor. The combination didn’t quite ignite the public’s fancy and the film wound up bombing.

The tangled narrative involves the gangs of Chinatown, including the Tongs and the Fukienese Dragons. Green cop Danny Wallace (Wahlberg) is paired with veteran Lt. Nick Chen (Chow) after a highly publicized, midday bombing at a public Chinatown location. Chen is enraged by this pairing, fearing that Chinatown’s residents won’t cooperate with a Caucasian considering they barely speak to Chinese-American cops. Eventually they begin working to figure out the reasons behind the alarming number of dead prostitutes turning up in dumpsters around town.

As lines of justice blur and Wallace comes under the influence of gang leaders Benny Wong (Kim Chan) and Henry Lee (Ric Young), The Corruptor unspools as a competently-crafted programmer. It’s the kind of action thriller that’s unlikely to inspire rabid appreciation, but plays as an effective time-filler when caught on cable and there’s nothing better on. Foley staged a number of reasonably exciting action sequences, including car chases and shoot-outs. The convoluted plot defies easy summary, but the saving grace is the surprising complexity behind Wallace and Chen. As the two cops strike up an uneasy alliance, they begin to discover some uncomfortable truths about each other. A few good twists combined with Foley’s sustained gritty tone (plus plenty of violence and T&A) makes The Corruptor a watchable remnant from the late ‘90s.

For those who do count themselves as fans, Warner Bros. has put together a nice Blu-ray edition. The transfer is generally strong, though grain levels are a bit inconsistent (occasionally edging toward an unpleasant, gauzy heaviness during the film’s darkest scenes, of which there are plenty). The DTS-HD MA 5.1 is surprisingly robust for a catalog title coming from the pre-HD era. It’s an immersive experience, with the LFE and surround channels frequently, actively engaged.

For supplements, there are several pieces ported over from a previous DVD edition, including director James Foley’s feature-length audio commentary. Presented in standard definition, “From the Underground Up” is a six-part “making of” that totals about 40 minutes. The best segment is the “unedited, unrated” version of the film’s key car chase sequence. There’s also a music video (for hip hop duo UGK’s “Take It Off”) and a couple of theatrical trailers.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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