Forget “The Replacement Killers”, this is the real American Chow Yun-Fat debut.
Nick Chen (Chow Yun-Fat) is the first Chinese-born immigrant in the NYPD and now one of its most decorated officers. As such, he has risen to be leader of the city’s Asian Gang Unit, the primary peacekeepers in Chinatown. Trouble has arrived for the real powers of Chinatown, the long entrenched Triads. The newly arrived Fukienese Dragons are challenging the old school Chinese gangsters. With a gang war coming, the city sends a new recruit, Danny Wallace (Mark Wahlberg), to join Chen’s unit. Chen’s unit is none too happy about a “green” white cop in the unit, but they also have to worry about Internal Affairs and the FBI breathing down their neck about the unit’s cozy relationship with certain Triads, particularly boss Henry Lee (Ric Young). Danny has his own secrets and a lot to learn as he finds out how Chinatown runs, and that a corrupt cop isn’t necessarily a bad cop.
I don’t know if this movie could have been made with anyone but Chow Yun-Fat. As Chen, he finally is allowed to display the nervous energy and Eastern rhythms we associate with his Hong Kong work. The first hour is much like his Ringo Lam films while the last 20 minutes and an earlier car chase are straight out of John Woo, all honor and unrestrained violence. Oh, and Chow’s English is now pretty good.
Whalberg turns in another solid performance, but he knows who has to carry this film. He’s worked with director James Foley before, a very underrated director who only gets the best out of his actors.
As difficult as it is to make people sit through subtitled films, this is the best chance (yet) for the American public to see what all the fuss is about with our pal, Chow. While Jackie Chan is slowing down in his old age, Chow’s only getting better.