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Film / The Corruptor

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The Corruptor is a 1999 action crime thriller film starring Chow Yun-fat and Mark Wahlberg. Much of the movie pays homage to Chow's old-school Hong Kong movies, especially those in the Heroic Bloodshed genre.

Nick Chen (Chow) is a NYPD Lieutenant leading the Asian Gang Unit in Chinatown, but is secretly working as informant for triad leader Uncle Benny. When Detective Daniel "Danny" Wallace (Wahlberg) is transferred into the same unit as Nick, both men had to work together to take down the powerful Fukienese Dragons gang, led by Bobby Vu (Byron Mann). But complications ensues when Danny finds out the truth behind Nick's corruption.

This film provides examples of:

  • And Your Little Dog, Too!:
    • Henry initially paid Sean's debt to the Italian mobsters, but threatens to rescind it should Danny not accept the offer to go on his payroll.
    • Nick threatens Jack with deporting his girlfriend, who will face hard jail time in her country of origin, in order to force him to become The Mole in the Fukienese Dragons.
  • Badass Longcoat: Nick, in typical Chow Yun-fat fashion.
  • Band of Brothels: Bobby Vu’s gang runs a prostitution business and owns several brothels in Chinatown. One of the action scenes is a police raid on a whorehouse, led by Nick, where they took on mobsters in a brothel shootout.
  • Becoming the Mask: FBI Agent Schabaker flat out tells Danny that he's going well beyond just an Internal Affairs assignment, and is enjoying the perks (e.g. money, sleeping with Asian prostitutes) of being a Corrupt Cop on the Tongs' payroll.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Uncle Benny.
    Uncle Benny: (staring down at Bobby Vu and his mooks intending to kill him): "You want to kill me? You no man enough!" (Ate His Gun)
    Bobby Vu: "But we kill you anyway!" (Deliberately fires repeatedly on Uncle Benny’s corpse)
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Bobby Vu is the brutal leader of the Fukienese Dragons but his rise to the top at such a young age is due to the assistance of Henry Lee, the ambitious second-in-command to the Fung Tung Benevolent Association and they work together to rule Chinatown.
  • Boom, Headshot!: See No Range Like Point-Blank Range. Also, Bobby Vu's fate courtesy of Danny.
  • Buddy Cop Show: One of the more serious and cynical examples.
  • Car Chase Shoot-Out: There's an intense pursuit where the two police protagonists, Detective Nick and Danny, take on the triads in a car chase across Chinatown, firing at each other, with the triads using an Uzi to mow down bystanders in their way.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Lee not only allies with Vu to get his mentor killed to take over the Fung Tung but after he discovers Wallace works for Internal Affairs he sets up a shoot out intending to get even Vu killed or arrested to have Wallace killed.
  • Corrupt Cop: Nick, despite being a decorated NYPD Lieutenant, is also an informant of the Tongs and is actively taking bribes from triad higher-ups.
  • Deal with the Devil:
    • Nick accepted one from Benny Wong long ago.
    • Henry offers the same one to Danny.
  • Doomed Protagonist: Come think about it, given the way his actions are depicted within the story, there’s little chance of Nick being granted a happy outcome by the end credits.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Danny's father may have been a Corrupt Cop in his time, but he's appalled when he learns that Danny intends to leave Chen hung to dry as part of his first Internal Affairs assignment.
  • Guns Akimbo: Nick, in typical Chow Yun-fat fashion, uses dual revolvers.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Nick, pushing Danny out of the way when Bobby Vu is trying to sneak up on them, taking a bullet in the process.
  • The Hero Dies: Calling Nick, the titular corruptor, a hero might be pushing it, although he at least dies a hero for saving Danny and eventually none of the evidence regarding his corruption is made public.
  • Human Traffickers: It turns out Bobby Vu is leading a human trafficking syndicate, as Nick and Danny find out when infiltrating Bobby’s hideout in the docks.
  • Ironic Echo: Agent Schabacker tells Nick that he did not disclose that the FBI had an informant in the Tongs because that would mean revealing confidential information to the 15th Precinct, "Which nothing in the 15 Precinct is." Danny cannot help but relish the opportunity to throw similar words back in Schabacker's face when the FBI finds out that he's Internal Affairs and on Nick's trail. It would mean sharing confidential information with the Bureau, "Which nothing in the Bureau is."
  • Man on Fire: During the climatic shootout, a mobster catches on fire when Danny shoots a propane tank next to him, causing him to be set alight while falling off a set of railings and getting tangled in chains. Nick plugs a few more rounds in him to finish him off.
  • Meaningful Funeral: Nick’s funeral ends the movie.
  • Mexican Standoff: Between Nick and Danny in the finale, when Nick discovers Danny is actually investigating him. The standoff is quickly interrupted when Bobby Vu’s mooks shows up.
  • Necessarily Evil: How Nick sees himself. He was initially getting nowhere when he was first assigned to Chinatown, as no one would ever give him any info. He made a Deal with the Devil when Uncle Benny took him under his wing, and started giving him info to complete busts. Carried through to the present day as Nick sees the Fuikenese Dragons as infinitely worse than the Tongs he works for.
  • Neighborhood-Friendly Gangsters: Benjamin Wong has the affectionate nickname, "Uncle Benny", which implies that many in Chinatown see him as a community benefactor. Henry gives Danny info to bust two pimps who force their stable to film hard pornography, and had left several dead girls in dumpsters. While the Tongs themselves profit from illegal activities, they also help out Corrupt Cops like Nick take down even more unsavory and dangerous elements in Chinatown.
  • No OSHA Compliance: The final shootout in the docks, where Bobby Vu’s hideout is located in the belly of a ship with no safety railings, dangerously unstable catwalks, cramped spaces and really poor lighting.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Nick furiously beats Bobby Vu at a local restaurant after the latter's gang almost kills Nick (in addition to killing several officers and almost killing Danny) during a raid at one of the brothels.
  • No Range Like Point-Blank Range: Nick does this during his shootouts. According to Word of God, the scene in the Action Prologue where he blasts a mobster through the temple from point-blank range is directly inspired by the infamous Vietnam execution photograph.
  • Pop the Tires: The Chinatown car chase ends when Danny, using a shotgun, blows up a tire of the triads’ getaway vehicle causing it to skid to a halt.
  • Pretty Little Headshots: Mostly averted, but played straight when Danny shoots Bobby Vu in the forehead.
  • Priceless Ming Vase: The Action Prologue opening shootout between Nick and three mobsters takes place in an antiques store, and during the cross-fire several antique vases gets shattered in the process.
  • The Starscream: Henry plots to usurp Uncle Benny as leader of the Tongs, with the help of Bobby Vu and the Fuikenese Dragons.
  • We Need a Distraction: It's implied that Henry drugged up May and left her for Nick to find near his apartment. It prevents Nick from receiving Jack's page, and thus also prevents him from interfering with the assassination of Uncle Benny.
  • White Man's Burden: Nick and the other cops in the AGU suspect Danny of having his kind of complex towards the residents of Chinatown, at least to begin with.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Henry Lee restrains Bobby Vu from killing Uncle Benny while the latter remains in good standing with their Hong Kong triad partners. It's not until Uncle Benny visits the FBI to take a deal that Henry gives Bobby the green light, as at that point the Hong Kong partners will see Benny as a liability.