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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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
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  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.