Title: Infernal Affairs (2002)
Directors: Andrew Lau and Alan Mak
Stars: Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang
Infernal Affairs is the story of two Hong Kong policemen who came up together in the same academy. Now older and more experienced, they have taken very different paths. Chen (Leung), is an undercover cop who has issues with what he is doing, which leads him to see a shrink. Lau (Andy Lau) is a cop who also happens to be working as a mole for the Triads. When the police start to crack down on the Triad boss, Sam (Tsang), both cops must step up their game. Chen is assigned to the case and must infiltrate the Triad gang to try and bring them down, meanwhile Lau must work for police, while simultaneously trying to please his Triad master. Both cops know that their is a mole, but neither knows of the other’s existence. In the end it all comes down to who is better at playing the game.
Infernal Affairs is probably most famous in the west for being the basis for the 2006 remake The Departed, directed by Martin Scorsese. This was the film that finally won Scorsese his long overdue Oscar for Best Director. It also walked off with the Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Oscars on the night. Despite many of the famous scenes from Infernal Affairs being lifted verbatim and planted right into The Departed, it was definitely one of the best ever conversions of a foreign to Hollywood film, as they usually don’t correlate on a cultural level or just get mangled in production. Infernal Affairs sits at no. 220 on the Top 250 films list on IMDB, whereas The Departed is way up at no. 43, so it would appear that fans approved of the remake.
The acting in Infernal Affairs is great and once you have seen both versions it is very entertaining to go back and compare the two. Tony Leung excels in the Leonardo Di Caprio role, playing a tortured soul, who wants to get his identity back after years of being on the dark-side. Andy Lau doesn’t look very menacing in the Matt Damon role, but he performs adequately enough, nonetheless. Anthony Wong scores well in the Martin Sheen role and meets the same fate!
Regardless which of the two versions you watch first, you will not be spoiling anything, as both films are that similar. Infernal Affairs spawned two follow-up movies, neither of which could live up to the reputation of the initial release. This film was an iconic Hong Kong release and was a major influence on later films from the gangster genre, such as 2005’s Election. Highly recommended.