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Hong Kong 2002
Directed by
Andrew (Wai Keung) Lau / Alan (Sui Fai) Mak
101 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars

Infernal Affairs

This crime thriller co-directed by Andrew Lau (no relation to Andy Lau who plays the triad mole here) and Alan Mak, the latter who co-wrote the screenplay with Felix Chong, is considerably more than a by-numbers example of the Hong Kong action film but probably not as good as its reputation might lead you to believe (it and its siblings are regularly compared to the Godfather films but this is largely because Coppola's influence is evident here). Its outstanding strength, although somewhat laboured by including a character, Ming Lau’s girlfriend, who spells it out for the audience, is its imbuing of the standard cops-vs-Triads scenario with pathos and philosophical fatalism.

Ming Lau is a ranking cop but also a mole for crime boss Brother Sam (Eric Tsang). Yan (Tony Leung), is his opposite number, a trusted member of Sam’s gang but also an undercover cop. The intricate plot keeps one working as it travels to the inevitable confrontation although there are elements, such as why Sam would record and store a meeting with Ming Lau, that tend to be overly contrived and the then-and-now aspects tend to be confusing, at least for an audience having to read sub-titles. Gun-play is kept to a minimum, the focus being on the perilous deceptions of the two main characters.

Lau and Leung are both strong in their roles and film is well made (Chris Doyle is credited as a visual consultant) although there are too many purely conventional elements (like the beautiful psychologist with her couch and white Mercedes and the sappy romantic music) to allow one to fully suspend disbelief.

The following year saw a strong prequel and sequel and the entire suite was repackaged by Martin Scorsese as The Departed in 2006, which sadly stripped it of its philosophic framework and added more action and gutter talk.. 




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