of Infernal Affairs recalls Running Out Of Time and cinema-goers,
when the film opened in Hongkong last December, must have been
expecting a witty thriller in the Johnny To mode. What they
got instead was a dark, gritty urban thriller.
Affairs, Eric Tsang is triad chief Sam who believes that every
plan must have a back-up, and every back-up an alternative.
Early in his criminal career, he has his people joining the
police force (who would later be his informants) - among them
Ming (the younger Ming is played by Edison Chen while the older
Ming is portrayed by Andy Lau). On the other side of the fence
is Inspector Wong (Anthony Wong), who gets Yan (Shawn Yu) "thrown
out" of the force. Yan (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) then joins the
triad and ends up a trusted member of Sam's outfit.
film starts, both Yan and Ming, who have been so immersed in
their double-crossing lives, are beginning to question themselves:
"Who am I?" The problem is even severe enough for Yan to see
a psychiatrist (Kelly Chan). Ironically, Ming is involved with
a writer (Sammi Cheng) working on a book about doppelgangers.
The film tries to resolve the internal conflicts that plague
these two, but why the ambitious Ming wants out isn't so clearly
about two characters leading double lives is rich with drama
and Infernal Affairs does not fail in this department. In the
film's running commentary (in Cantonese), the cast and crew
point out that everyone understands and tries to showcase the
anguish that the two leads feel. Strangely then the tension
in the film does not derive from this angst but from the efforts
each side makes to undercover the mole in their midst. The two
instances where the weight of his actions seem to be unbearable
is when Yan witnesses the death of his mentor and when Yan's
buddy dies trying to save him.
of watching Infernal Affairs is not so much the tight ensemble
acting among some of the top Hongkong actors today, but that
they are all in this movie together, and not fooling around!
Tony Leung fans might remember him in a similar role in Hard
Boiled so playing an undercover cop is nothing new, but he did
snag the Best Actor Award at this year's Hong Kong Film Awards.
The standout actor is actually Eric Tsang. With his cherubic
face, Tsang comes across as a non-threatening businessman but
wait till you see that sinister glint in his eyes.
and critical success of the film must have surprised the filmmakers
though on hindsight, Infernal Affairs does stand out from the
usual run of cheesy ghost and love stories. (The other notable
exception in 2002 is Golden Chicken, directed by Samson Chiu
and stars Sandra Ng as a hooker with a heart of gold. The film
also stars Eric Tsang and Andy Lau, the latter practically plays
himself - cheeky pun intended). Infernal Affairs has spawned
two follow-ups - a prequel and a sequel. While the sequel neatly
wraps up the story, it is the murky web of intrigue and shady
charactersations (aided by superb photography, Christopher Doyle
was a consultant) that make Infernal Affairs a much more involving
journey into Hell than the straight-forward story found in its
heart. (7) - Stephen Tan