Thursday, April 9, 2009

Infernal Affairs(2003)

Everyone has seen or at least knows about the awesome film The Departed starring Leonardo Dicaprio, Mat Dammon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen. But did you know that The last two thirds of The Departed is actually based on a hong kong film called Infernal Affairs? This movie was made in 2004 and features several big name Hong Kong actors including, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Andy Lau, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Kelly Chen and Sammi Cheng. The movie was such a hit in Hong Kong that it inspired a prequel Infernal Affairs 2 and a sequel Infernal Affairs 3, and obviously Martin Scorsese’s The Departed.

The basic story is mostly the same as The Departed. An undercover cop named Chen Wing-Yan(Tony Leung) infiltrates deep into a Triad gang. Meanwhile a Triad gang member Lau Kin-Ming(Andy Lau) infiltrates the Hong Kong police force. While each man gathers intelligence for his organization, the stresses of leading a dual life begin to take their toll.

I liked the fact that, while very similar to its American counterpart, Infernal Affairs is different not just in terms of plot but also in the overall “feel” of the movie. The best way I can describe it is that it focuses more on group dynamics rather than on individual character arcs. Don’t get me wrong, the characters are strong in both movies, but where The Departed emphasizes the perspective of each individual, Infernal Affairs highlights the “game theory” and strategizing aspects of the story. In Infernal Affairs, the characters seem to be almost pawns in a game through which they must constantly navigate in order to survive. A good example is the first “battle” scene of the movie. In Infernal Affairs, the teamwork that goes on between the two groups of the mobsters and the police is emphasized . There is a dramatic scene between the two rival factions when the head mobster and his gang are hauled into the police department for questioning. The showdown between the superintendent(Anthony Wong Chau-Sang) and the head boss Hon Sam(Eric Tsang Chi-wai) further serves to highlight the rivalry between the two groups. Another gem of a scene that is different from the American version was a scene where Tony Leung’s character, Yan, and his Mafia friend Keung(Chapman To Man-Chat) escape in the gun battle of the second act. In this scene the two share an intimate moment of brotherhood among thieves before the unknowing Keung dies from a gunshot wound. This scene not only is very poignant, but serves to emphasize the deep emotional entanglement between Yan and his fellow mobsters. An aspect only alluded to in The Departed with regards to Billy Costigan’s character.

There is one similarity that really stuck out to me. In The Departed, Mark Wahlberg’s portrayal of Staff Sergeant Sean Dignam really kicked ass. His obnoxious attitude and the “hand on his hip” acting was quite a knockout. It is interesting to note that in Infernal Affairs the actor who plays the corresponding character of Inspector Cheung, Chapman To Man-Chat, also acts many of his scenes with “hand on his hip” acting technique. Clearly Mark Wahlberg is an awesome actor in that he knew what was right for the character and the scene and wasn’t afraid to borrow from genius.

All in all, Infernal Affairs is an awesome movie. While similar to The Departed, it also has it’s own unique story aspects and stylistic approach to telling the story with an emphasis on the overall character dynamics rather than individual character arcs.

If you liked this movie you might also like:

The Departed, Hard Boiled, In The Mood For Love, 2046, Bullet in the Head.

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