leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh
Once again the incarnation of all the world's corruption, Chinatown here ensnares cops Nick Chen (Chow Yun-Fat) and Danny Wallace (Mark Wahlberg). Chen was the first Chinese policeman in New York's 15th precinct, squeezed by prejudice from
both sides: His fellow cops distrusted Chinese people, even ones with badges, while Chinatown's residents clammed up in the presence of cops of any color. Now he heads up a three-person squad dedicated to problems of the densely populated neighborhood, where prostitution, gambling, drug
trafficking and the brutal exploitation of recent immigrants are a way of life. His pleas for more manpower produce Wallace, mostly because a recent explosion of violent Chinese gang threatens tourist dollars: Chen's protests that a white officer, especially a rookie like Wallace, is useless in
Chinatown are summarily overruled. The clean-cut son of a dirty cop (Brian Cox), Wallace is singularly ill-equipped to handle slippery customers like Henry Lee (Ric Young), the duplicitous right-hand of old-time Tong leader "Uncle" Benny Wong (Kim Chan). And the pressure is mounting: Young
prostitutes are being found dead in dumpsters; a pack of ruthless sociopaths called the Fukinese Dragons are muscling in on the neighborhood's criminal activities; Uncle Benny, whose criminal reign has been characterized by relative calm on the streets, is on the way out; and both Chen and Wallace
keep running afoul of the FBI, which is running its own undercover operations. James Foley's simultaneously bleak and richly stylized film offers Hong Kong superstar Chow Yun-fat a quirkier and more complex role than his U.S. debut, THE REPLACEMENT KILLERS. It also aspires to greater moral
ambiguity than the average crime thriller, and if it doesn't entirely succeed it nevertheless avoids the lazy moral bankruptcy of movies like LETHAL WEAPON 4, which uses Chinese gang wars as a backdrop to lame jokes and mindless head-bashing.