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Infernal Affairs

August 30, 2010

Infernal Affairs (2002)
Directors: Andrew Lau and Alan Mak
Actors: Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Eric Tsang

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Synopsis: The Hong Kong police force have a mole (Tony Leung) deep inside a Triad gang. Little do they know, that the gang have their own mole (Andy Lau) inside the police….

Review: This is quite simply the perfect action movie, exhibiting all the very best and most polished aspects of that genre: from the ingenious and elaborate “concept” (triad and police moles, wedged on opposite sides of the criminal spectrum, but suffering from the same identity crisis), to the riotous, extravagant stylistics on show, with slow-mo shots, frenetic editing, an emotive Hong Kong soundtrack and lean flashbacks combining to delirious effect. Never at any stage does the narrative grow weary or feel redundant – the twists and turns, with clever growing character arcs, are beautifully plotted out.

On repeat viewing, one of the film’s strongest elements – and that which elevates Infernal Affairs beyond its Scorsese makeover, The Departed – is the grandiose sense of spiritual and existential kinship between the two moles, despite their separate allegiances. Where as Matt Damon’s cop in The Departed is too broadly portrayed as villainous and morally inferior to Di Caprio’s undercover hood (and is therefore given an ethically unambiguous death-scene at the end), Andy Lau’s cop in Infernal Affairs is much more inscrutable and conflicted. Though seemingly the ‘winner’ at the film’s climax when his alter-ego is laid to rest, it’s easy to believe the film’s opening and closing credo that he is destined for even greater purgatory as the man burdened to remain forever in his duplicitous abyss. (October 2007)

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