Infernal Affairs (2002)

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This Hong Kong thriller is hailed as one of the greatest action dramas and it would be the inspiration for an Academy Award winning film.

Two police officers, Lau Kin-Ming and Chan Wing-Yan, are truly opposites, but there is a connection between them. Lau is actually a mole working for Hon Sam, a notorious Triad leader in Hong Kong. Lau has been working within the police since his late teens. However, Chan has been undercover for the past ten years, infiltrating Sam’s operation. What was supposed to be a three year operation has extended to ten years, infuriating him and confronting his superior Wong at times.

When a deal between Sam and Thai dealers goes wrong, Sam suspects there is a mole in the gang. He asks Lau to flush out the mole. Wong suspects there is a mole in the police force and searches for answers. Chan, reeling from the effects of his job, sees psychiatrist Lee while Lau, who learns of Chan’s true job while Lau is happily engaged to Mary. However, as the lives of both Lau and Chan begin to draw closer, both Lau and Chan soon find themselves making decisions that will change their lives forever.

From the team of Andrew Lau and Alan Mak comes a film that may seem somewhat like a standard Hong Kong action film involving police and Triads. However, no one would expect this to be a groundbreaking film let alone become the inspiration behind the Academy Award winning Best Picture The Departed. Mak and co-writer Felix Chong have crafted a great film about two men who work for opposite sides of the law and their paths eventually crossing and it is the core cast whose performance drives this film.

Andy Lau and Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, two already established artists in the world of Hong Kong entertainment, churn out perhaps one of their greatest performances in the central roles of Lau and Chan. The former, a gangster planted in the Hong Kong police department, begins to question whether he’s doing the right thing while the latter, an undercover cop, begins to question both his sanity and whether he is slowly becoming what he has a hatred for being. In their brief cameo appearances, Edison Chen and Shawn Yue make the most of playing the younger versions of the central characters, who would be promoted to leads in the prequel Infernal Affairs II, released in 2003.

The supporting cast is in top form as well. Eric Tsang, normally known for comic roles, goes against type in the role of crime lord Hon Sam, who is the connection between our central characters. Anthony Wong is great as SP Wong and it seems like at times, there is a level of respect between Sam and Wong until the deal gone bad gives them a chance to really challenge each other. Chapman To’s Keung is seen as a bit of comic relief as he gets a bit paranoid about how to identify police. He has a sense of loyalty to Chan, and in a pivotal scene, this is to be confirmed. Despite their minimal appearances, Sammi Cheng and Kelly Chen also make the most of their roles as Lau’s fiancée Mary and psychiatrist Lee respectively as they become affected by the actions of Lau and Chan.

As mentioned, there would be a prequel in Infernal Affairs II and a time-crossing a la Godfather Part II with the final installment Infernal Affairs III, both films released in 2003.

The original Infernal Affairs is a terrifically-paced drama, driven by the cast performances and the structured storyline makes this one of the best modern day Hong Kong films to watch.

WFG RATING: A+

Media Asia Films present a Basic Film Ltd. Production. Directors: Andrew Lau and Alan Mak. Producer: Andrew Lau. Writers: Alan Mak and Felix Chong. Cinematography: Andrew Lau, Lai Yiu-Fai, and Christopher Doyle. Editing: Danny Pang and Curran Pang.

Cast: Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Sammi Cheng, Kelly Chen, Edison Chen, Shawn Yue, Elva Hsiao, Chapman To, Gordon Lam, Berg Ng, Wan Chi-Keung, Dion Lam.

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