It's a shame director James Foley has never returned to the peak he reached with 1992's magnificent Glengarry Glen Ross - and an even greater shame that bent-cop thriller The Corruptor merely continues his run of unremarkable big-screen offerings (Fear, The Chamber). At first glance, this seems a little odd: a drama about real-estate salesmen sounds boring, but Glengarry Glen Ross was taut, sharp and gripping; a thriller about corrupt policemen sounds intriguing, but the result is dull - and confusing.
Of course, Glengarry had a cracking script (courtesy of David Mamet) and an electric cast (Pacino, Lemmon, Spacey), whereas The Corrupter - - written by Robert Pucci - - suffers from a pedestrian screenplay and lukewarm performances. It was conceived as a star vehicle for Chow Yun-Fat, and while the Hong Kong action man hardly puts his foot back in the turd-pile that was The Replacement Killers, he's no Pacino. And neither, for that matter, is Mark Wahlberg. We've seen that he can light up a screen as in Boogie Nights, but there's little here to prove he can get far without a 13-inch prosthetic trouser-hammer dangling between his thighs.
As for the script... Pucci is obviously a worshipper of the great Cop Cliché God. Yun-Fat is the cynical experienced detective, Wahlberg the idealistic rookie. At first they don't get on, then a growing sense of mutual respect develops into a shaky, culture-bridging father-son relationship. The latter tries to impress his mentor, but accidentally busts an undercover FBI man. Wahlberg inspects a cut-up corpse, then bends over retching while his world-weary partner looks on smirking. And, yes, there's a big showdown at the docks.
Yet, despite the basic nature of the plot, it's often oddly baffling - - you're never quite sure who everyone is, who they've made deals with and why they're shooting the crap out of each other. Then, just when the script promises an interesting twist, it ends with an industry-standard climax. Half-arsed attempts at snappy one-liners have higher priority than lucid explanation or innovative storytelling: ""I'm drier 'n a 90-year-old tit"" grumbles Wallace's alcoholic dad in one scene. Ouch.
Foley does his best, though, using some effective NYPD Blue-style hand held camerawork for the chases and gun fights. He keeps everything grainy and underlit, giving The Corruptor an appealing visual style, and there is some spectacular aerial photography. But this is his first action pic and it shows, particularly during the frustratingly sluggish central car-chase sequence - - the vehicles shouldn't look like they're really ambling along at 20mph.
So Chow Yun-Fat is still waiting for a noteworthy American project, Mark Wahlberg is still hoping for another Boogie Nights and James Foley is still working in the shadow of Glengarry Glen Ross. Looks like The Corruptor's let everyone down.