Martin Scorsese has always come out with some of the best films ever made, from Taxi Driver and Raging Bull to Goodfellas and Casino. For his Oscar winning film in 2007, Scorsese turned to Hong Kong and with screenwriter William Monahan, made a very faithful yet creatively own version of the hit film trilogy Infernal Affairs, directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak.
In the mean streets of Boston, crime boss Frank Costello is the top man when it comes to criminal life. Recruiting a young boy, Colin Sullivan, into his life of crime, Colin Sullivan soon becomes the top of his class at the police academy. Meanwhile, Billy Costigan is a potential officer whose family has been involved in crime. When Colin joins the SIU, a joint operation with the FBI to take down Costello, he obviously becomes the big leak and gives information to Costello. Meanwhile, Billy is hired as an undercover cop who fights his way into the ranks of Costello’s organization. When a deal between Costello and Chinese gangsters becomes botched, Costello and the police are both convinced there are moles within their respected organizations. Soon, it becomes a very violent game of cat-and-mouse between Billy and Colin as they struggle to finally go on their respective paths, but at what cost?
According to sources, William Monahan went to Andrew Lau and Alan Mak for their input on the film, only showing that when it comes to remaking a film with a caliber of Infernal Affairs, the input of the original directors only seem like the right thing to do. While Infernal Affairs was a successful trilogy, this film is a single film that takes elements from all three films and as a result, a nicely shot 151-minute epic of a film that starts out as subtle as we learn about the two potential “moles”, Billy and Colin, to the insanely shot finale of the film where it just becomes chaotic in a good way.
At first, it was rumored that Brad Pitt (who helped produce the film under his Plan B Productions) and Tom Cruise were going to take the roles of the moles and even I had a few doubts about Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio. Then again, it does fit well as Matt Damon originates from the Boston area and Leonardo DiCaprio has been Scorsese’s new “Robert DeNiro”, with Gangs of New York and The Aviator. Not much of a surprise, both Damon and DiCaprio did a great job and there is a good feeling that original Infernal Affairs actors Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Andy Lau would agree.
Jack Nicholson tends to get the audience going and this is perhaps one of his best roles to date. As a matter of fact, Nicholson improvised most of his scenes in this film, which could explain a very shocking yet funny scene where he meets Damon at an adult theater and surprises him by whipping something out…a fake one, you guys! Hahahaha. While he tends to have some comic relief, he takes Eric Tsang’s character of Sam and ups the ante a bit with his style of acting.
Kelly Chen’s original psychiatrist Dr. Lee comes in the form of Madolyn, played here by Vera Farmiga. She plays an important role not only that she is involved in the cat-and-mouse game herself, but she tends to start up a love triangle because both Colin and Billy have feelings for her. While she starts out having dinner dates with Colin, she ultimately gets in bed with Billy. In the original trilogy, Lee ultimately has feelings for Tony Leung’s Yan while Andy Lau’s Ming was engaged to a woman named Mary only to get dumped when she learns the truth about his criminal ties and while in the third installment, Lau does see Dr. Lee, there is no sense of romance between the two. In essence, the “love triangle” in this film only brings the film up a notch in terms of its plot.
The rest of the supporting cast, from Martin Sheen’s Queenan (the American version of Anthony Wong’s Superintendent Wong) to Mark Wahlberg’s foul-mouthed Staff Sgt. Dignam are also great to watch. For those who wonder and have been bored enough to actually count, the “F-Bomb” and its derivatives were used a total of 237 times in the film, Wahlberg alone mus have done more than half of them in his role.
In 2007, this film won the ultimate prize, Best Picture, at the Academy Awards. Of course, whoever wrote the information on the film needed to get smacked as they said it was based on the Japanese film Infernal Affairs? SMACK! Just to clarify, the original is a Hong Kong film…in respect to the producers of both IA and DEPARTED…the film is based on the entire trilogy, mostly focusing on the first two films and changing a bit on the epilogue.
Nevertheless, if you haven’t seen it already, see The Departed as it is definitely a great Scorsese take on a now classic Hong Kong epic and it may just motivate you to see the original source material in the Infernal Affairs trilogy.
WFG RATING: A+
Warner Bros. Pictures present a Plan B/Initial Entertainment Group/Vertigo Entertainment production in association with Media Asia Films. Director: Martin Scorsese. Producers: Brad Pitt, Brad Grey, Gianni Nunnari, and Graham King. Writer: William Monahan; based on the films Infernal Affairs, Infernal Affairs II, and Infernal Affairs III, written by Alan Mak and Felix Chong. Cinematography: Michael Ballhaus. Editing: Thelma Schoonmaker.
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Vera Farmiga, Martin Sheen, Mark Walhberg, Anthony Anderson, Ray Winstone, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Corrigan, James Badge Dale, David O’Hara, Mark Rolston, Robert Walhberg.