Nick Chen (Chow Yun-Fat) is not your average New York cop. Working in Chinatown has its multifarious cultural nuances and its fair share of ubiquitous enticement, both of which are reflected in detective Chen's weary face. He had to get into bed with the highest echleons of the Chinese Mafia as a way of augmenting his own career, while maintaining a semblance of control over the dime-a-dozen hoods who proliferate on this turf. To make matters worse, he now has to break in rookie detective Danny Wallace (Mark Wahlberg), who has asked to be assigned to the Chinatown division. Apparently Wallace is infatuated with all things Chinese, or is suffering from "Yellow Fever," as his fellow colleagues would have us believe. Chen, not one to suffer fools gladly, takes young Wallace under his protective wing, oft-warning the shady powers of the neighborhood not to sink Danny into their sordid pool of corruption. But before he knows it, both he and Wallace are caught in a deadly ring of double-crosses, shady-dealings, murders, and car chases. And all of this under the suspicious eye of Internal Affairs.
Part Serpico and part Hard Boiled, this film seems at first to be a major departure from director James Foley's previous work. However, Foley has frequently revealed a keen eye and understanding for emotionally complex relationships, especially between teacher and pupil (Glengarry Glen Ross) or father and son (At Close Range). This movie is no different. In fact, Foley's meticulous attention to the relationship between the wise, morally burdened Chen, and the naïve, innocent Wallace morphs this otherwise tedious plot into a thoroughly enjoyable experience. Hats off to Chow Yun-Fat and Mark Wahlberg, whose sympathetic chemistry creates an authentic and deeply personal connection, a factor that proves crucial to the film's poignant, disturbing finale. --Jeremy Storey