Movie of the Day – Infernal Affairs

I prefer my crime drama without the use of the Boston accent.  That is to say I didn’t love The Departed, just that I enjoy the Hong Kong version way more and no, it’s because of my man crush on Andy Lau:

No I like this because there is a bit more subtle nuiasnaces that went into this crime drama than say biting snark and a lot of yelling on the part of the American version.  Also I guess Jack Nicholson playing Jack Nicholson gets a bit tiring.  Infernal Affairs brings together a strong casts of familiar (to those who watch Hong Kong movies on a regular basis) actors and very tightly compacted story which enhances the pace and thrilling nature of the cat and mouse game.  A strong film that ended spawning two sequels, a couple of remakes in other markets and helped win Martin Scorsese an Oscar in 2006.

As Infernal Affairs opens, Ming (Andy Lau of Full-time Killer) is being initiated into the criminal underworld by triad boss Sam (Eric Tsang of The Accidental Spy), who ends his speech to his young charges by wishing them success in the police department. Ming enters the police academy, where he excels, but sees his classmate, Yan (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai of In the Mood for Love), expelled for “breaking the rules.” It turns out that Yan wasn’t actually drummed out of the force, but recruited by Superintendent Wong (Anthony Wong of Hard-Boiled) as an undercover operative. Just as Ming is achieving success in the police department while secretly working for Sam, Ming is gaining Sam’s trust as a triad member, while reporting to Wong. Ten years later, both men, still undercover, have grown confused about their true identities, while their bosses, Sam and Wong, wage a battle of wits against each other. Each boss learns that the other has a mole working for him, and unwittingly entrusts the mole himself to ferret out the culprit. Ming and Yan scramble to expose one another’s identity in an effort to save their own skins.  ~ Josh Ralske, Rovi

I am sure that once you see this film, you will enjoy it a bit more than the 2006 remake.  Hey, imitation is the highest form of flattery and if you are going to base your movie off an existing film, why not this one.  Having seen both films, you can tell that a lot of the plot beats, thematic elements and even pacing is lifted almost scene for scene.  That isn’t to say that the 2006 version doesn’t have a little something to make it different, it’s just an Americanized version with it’s own star studded cast.  So enough about the comparisons, as there are many, and on to what makes this really the standout film, which lies on the shoulders of Andy Lau and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai.

If you have never seen any of their films, suffice to say, they are some of the most versatile actors working in Chinese cinema.  How neither of these guys have crossed over to American films is beyond me, but I am glad that they stick to their mainland films, as they are able to try out different roles instead of being type cast as “Asian Crime Lord” or “Generic Asian Martial Artists” as they would in America.  Tony Leung plays the beat cop turned mob informant, a stressful and paranoia filled job that Tony is able to look both distressed and calculating in his role.  It’s interesting to see him play a role that is more low-key and has him constantly looking over his shoulder.  Considering his previous roles as a Lothario and stoic swordsman, this is a good turn for his acting range.

Andy Lau, the penultimate Jack of All Trades, this man is a chameleon with his acting roles.  Place him in any film and you will get a solid acting job, no matter the role.  Hell the man even did a Asian remake of that the one Mel Gibson movies where he can read the minds of women, What Women Want, ,and that even had a quirky mystical plot that revolved around his mind reading abilities.  The guy is charming, for a criminal at least, and makes you convinced that he a turncoat for both sides.  He can charm his way out of anything, almost seamlessly going back and forth between factions.  The times that the two actors come together is filled with tense moments and the two characters don’t actually meet till the later third of the movie.

While those two steal the show, the film is also filled with notable roles from familiar Hong Kong stars such as Eric Tsang and Anthony Wong, who are prolific Hong Kong action stars.  This ensemble brings together a very large scoped story line into a condensed two hours, but nothing is lost as tension and thrill of finding out who the mole is for each organization will have you on edge, even if you have seen the American version.  To me, this is also on the best shot Hong Kong films around.  It’s bathed in a bluish hue and the inclusion of the darker aspects of the Hong Kong play to the strengths of the movie when dealing with devious people.  It’s a stunning movie both in terms of acting and cinematography.

I definitely recommend this film to anyone who was a fan of the Scorsese remake, as you will see what the original has to offer.  Definitely one of the better crime thrillers to have come out in the 2000’s and was a major influence in numerous films.  The sequels are also recommended as they deal with different aspects of the main characters lives and fleshed out more of the story between the gang and police.  That is for a different post all together.

About Nick
I am just another blogger putting his thoughts into a website. My love is movies so most of my musings will be movie related. I work as an online marketer for an advertising company and when I am not earning a paycheck, I moonlight as a vigilante film blogger.

2 Responses to Movie of the Day – Infernal Affairs

  1. Anarya Andir says:

    I watched IA after TD and I have to agree that the original is far superior. Not only does it have a more well-crafted storyline, but I really like how the identities of Yan and Lau are blurred to the point that Lau really thinks he’s a good guy. The Buddhist undertones also really help in taking the story to a more philosophical level. And the sequels don’t disappoint too. Good post!

    • Nick says:

      Thank you for the comment. I too place a higher value on Infernal Affairs over The Departed personally. For me, Hong Kong detective films have always had this connection with over the top action, so it was refreshing to see a tightly paced detective drama that dispensed more suspense than action. I think The Departed is a great Americanized version of the film, with a strong inclusion of action to placate the needs of the audience. IA though is just so well done from the tone to the pace of the film that it feels complete as a film. Also I have a man crush on Andy Lau so there is that.

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