Infernal Affairs

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

INFERNAL AFFAIRS

6/10

Wu jian dao aka Mogan Do : Hong Kong 2002 : Andrew LAU Wai-keung & Alan MAK Siu-fai : 98-100 mins (shorter versions exist for China and Malaysia)

Puns in movie titles are usually a reliable harbinger of doom, so it’s a pleasant surprise that Infernal Affairs is such an intriguing (if slightly overlong) variant on the well-worn cops-vs-triads genre. The plot can be summed up by the yin-yang symbol, in which two the colours feature, in their heart, a dot of their opposite number. Lau King-ming (Andy Lau, no relation to director Andrew Lau) is a triad mole within the Hong Kong police force; Chan Wing-yan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai) is police force mole within the Hong Kong triads. As the battle between the two sides escalates, the two men’s destinies criss-cross – with ultimately tragic consequences.

Borrowing aspects of story and style from Michael Mann’s Heat, Infernal Affairs is something of a dream union of far-eastern talent on both sides of the screen: local superstars Cheung and Lau are as well-matched as the older pair of De Niro and Pacino in the Mann movie, while behind the camera top cinematographer Christopher Doyle is listed as visual consultant and Danny Pang (Bangkok Dangerous, The Eye) is co-editor.

The film, unsurprisingly, always looks superb, featuring several tense sequences in which our two heroes’ true identities seems certain to be rumbled. In retrospect, however, it’s surprising how little full-on action has actually taken place, once the slam-bang prologue is out of the way. Instead, scriptwriters Mak and Felix Chong emphasise the psychological pressures on the two protagonists whose respective organisations, we soon realise, can hardly be distinguished in terms of their tactics, morals – or, indeed their bravery.

7th March, 2003
(seen 6th February, CinemaxX Berlin – Berlin Film Festival – Forum)

For all the review from the Berlin Film Festival click here.

by Neil Young