Infernal Affairs

Movie Review by Stephen Doyle

Starring: Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Kelly Chen, Sammi Cheng
Directors: Andrew Lau, Alan Mak

INFERNAL AFFAIRS is a cool and clever thriller, full of expensive guns, tough and immoral gangsters and cops in sharp suits. All this, as well as some assured editing and a great score, means this film certainly looks the part. An unpredictable and edgy script which keeps the tension turned up to the maximum throughout means that this film is close to being the full package.

The plot concerns Ming (Andy Lau), a triad who has been a mole in the police department for ten years, and Yan (Tony Leung), who has been working undercover in a triad gang for the last ten years. The paths of these two characters cross when the police department that Ming supposedly works for begin a desperate drive to take down the triad gang which Yan has supposedly affiliated himself with. Both characters are left confused and on the edge after having lived false lives for the last decade.

The plot continues in this fashion, with much symmetry and various parallels between the lives of the two unacquainted informants. It is an unquestionably clever plot structure, but also a bit too contrived and unlikely for my tastes. Despite this, I was still able to appreciate some of the wonderful twists and turns that the plot kept producing.

The performances from the male leads are excellent. As is obligatory for this type of movie, all the male characters are cool, moody and tough. Tony Leung and Andy Lau are fine as Yan and Ming, but the film is stolen by the two elder leads – Eric Tsang as the triad boss Sam and Anthony Wong as Superintendent Wong. These two characters have a deadly hatred for each other, and watching the complex and dangerous cat and mouse game they play is a real thrill.

I feel the script could have benefited from some further rewrites, mostly in order to strengthen, (or even better, erase altogether) the female roles in the film. This is definitely a film for the boys, and the scenes featuring women characters are noticeably weaker and less convincing than those featuring the men. Despite this, the film still knocks spots off the average Hollywood thriller. Indeed Hollywood could do worse than stand up and take note of the wonderful thrillers Hong Kong and the rest of Asia are producing.

In short this a fantastic piece of pulp fiction, both raw and unpredictable, which will leave pubescent males in seventh heaven. It has done extraordinarily well in Hong Kong, and has already spawned a prequel, while a sequel is in production at the moment. A Hollywood remake cannot be far away, but it’s well worth watching this original version.

4 out of 6 stars