Infernal Affairs (Hong Kong ; 97 min.)

directed by: Wai Keung Lau; Siu Fai Mak
starring: Andy Lau; Tony Leung; Anthony Wong
Wu jian dao
Bruce says: "Every so often a film comes along that soars above others in its genre. Whether you categorize INFERNAL AFFAIRS as a thriller, action film or crime drama, it soars. Some critics bill this as a good cop/bad cop film. Yes, it does have two cops that appear to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. INFERNAL AFFAIRS is the first film in a trilogy. We sense early on that we may not find out the extent to which either cop is good or bad before the first film is over. Labels aren’t so black and white in this Hong Kong. Both cops are 'moles.' Yan is an undercover policeman (Tony Leung) working for the triad, the renowned Hong Kong mobsters; the other, Lau Kin Ming (Andy Lau) is on a fast track within the police department although he is really working for the mob boss. Many other characters do surprising things to make us wonder just who knows what. Are either of the moles a well-kept secret? The plot of INFERNAL AFFAIRS is so complex it would take pages of description to adequately do it justice.

"Some critics also point out similarities to Michael Mann’s HEAT. There is one scene in which the good guys and bad guys all end up at police headquarters after a flubbed drug bust. Inspector Wong (Anthony Wong) and Sam (Eric Tsang) shake hands. Sam swears that one of them will die and that it won’t be him. Just like DiNiro and Pacino sitting in the diner having a heart-to-heart over coffee. Both films have riveting action scenes and are beautifully stylized. The similarity to HEAT ends there. Amid double crosses, false starts, and quick turns of events INFERNAL AFFAIRS has an underlying intelligence that accompanies the emotional impact and suspense. HEAT was corny, with self-help moralistic overtones. And paragraphs could be written about Pacino’s overacting (believe me, it was no fluke; I saw him in Salome on Broadway and he could have been the embarrassment of almost any high school production.)

"INFERNAL AFFAIRS is well written, exceptionally well acted, and exquisitely edited. Close-ups are character studies; pan shots are filled with demographic information that gives us a sense of place. Flashbacks of Yan and Lau Kin Ming at police academy training are interspersed very effectively with the narrative line. The original score is absolutely terrific, adding another dimension to the story. The film also has a unique style in the way is captures the action, turning tumultuous moments into intimate still shots.

"The cast is superb. Tony Leung, one of my favorite actors, is at the top of his game here. It is not just a one-man show, however; Andy Lau is less than a half step behind in every respect. The two of them are capable of conveying every emotion in a single glance. Eric Tsang as the minor street thug who has become the big boss and Anthony Wong Chau-Sang as the police superintendent both shine.

"INFERNAL AFFAIRS is one of the most exciting films I’ve seen in a long time. If American moviegoers were to drop their aversion to subtitles, Hollywood would be in big trouble. 5 cats"

Ivy responds: "I see that you are so in love with Infernal Affairs 1 that you proceeded to watch the others. I will read those reviews to see if they are as good as the first. We just screened it in the Fantastic Film Fest and I also thought it was amazing. I never thought that Tony Cheung could be cast across from someone who would make him look plain, but Andy Lau is it. (I know that is a very fann-ish and silly mention for the film but I was agog at how beautiful Andy Lau was...)

"The film truly is wonderful. A simple cop film that surmounts many of the genre made in America. I completely understand why Scorsese is planning on remaking it (set in Boston) in the next year. I think that he may get it to translate well and I hope that he won’t hurt it. I am hoping that Miramax actually releases the original version – they are planning to right now but you know how up in the air they are right now and how bad their track record is for releasing foreign films that they pick up.

"Bruce’s description is so wonderful I don’t really have anything else to add – but see it if you can!!!"

Michael says: "Here’s an interesting conundrum. Had this film been made in Hollywood (as it is going to be, by Martin Scorsese) I wouldn’t have liked it. It’s your standard cop/suspense film, with little in the way of originality. However, due to its inherent foreignness (it’s a Hong Kong film) I found it to be entertaining and stylish. Bolstered by its strong, charismatic leads, a sharp, modern look, and a more internal/reflective mood, INFERNAL AFFAIRS is a worthwhile endeavor. Conversely, there are some pretty hokey moments; fortunately they are brief. An attempt at a romance is laughable.

"As mentioned, the two leads shine. Andy Lau plays Lau, who as a child, was part of a gang. He infiltrates the police force and works his way to a powerful position. His counterpart, Yan, a promising police cadet who has spent the last 10 years working undercover for the force in various gangs, is played by down-on-his-luck elegance by the magnificent Tony Leung (HERO; IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE). Anthony Wong is very strong as Superintendent Wong. These actors make the film pop to life, where otherwise it might have been overly pedestrian.

"Not much else to say, except that most people would probably be entertained at INFERNAL AFFAIRS, and it certainly solidified by Tony Leung crush. That man is absolutely beautiful. 3 cats"

Chris says: "Fairly average Hong Kong action cop movie that wouldn't exist without Woo, Tarantino, et al... but entertaining and inoffensive enough. As double-crossing moles, Tony Leung and Andy Lau give the picture identity and some charisma. However, I doubt Scorsese's eventual American remake will be an improvement (although at least it'll steer him away from the overblown biopic/historical epic ghetto). 3 cats"
Diane says: "Well, Chlotrudis reviews are all over the map on this one, and I'll add to the range. Lots of fun to watch: a cop show with philosophy behind it, some clever comedy, and a number of real surprises in the story. I particularly appreciated the three man-woman relationships, each of which, although given very little screen time, had
depth and its own character. 4 cats. (admittedly, I was on the rebound from "Reconstruction") P.S. to those who saw it: was the dumb thug with the ponytail (Keung) really another undercover cop?"