Director: Andrew Lau, Alan Mak
Cast: Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Eric Tsang, Anthony Wong, Chapman To, Kelly Chen, Sammi Cheng
Infernal Affairs was the box office champion in Hong Kong in 2002. Although it was unable to break the record of 2001's Shaolin Soccer, the response was still unanimously positive. Both the audience and the movie critics enjoyed this movie a lot. If you only watch one Hong Kong movie a year, Infernal Affairs is definitely the first choice!
First off, I would like to clear some confusion. The title of this movie is NOT InTernal Affairs but InFernal Affairs. The word "infernal" is actually a gimmick that has special meaning. It implies a buddhist term that refers to a hellish place roughly known as "infernal hell". People that are trapped in this "infernal hell" have to suffer from endless tortue of combustion. It parallels to the situation the two characters are entangled in. Their identities are kept secret and they have to live in the dark and suffer from great pressures every day. Therefore, the title Infernal Affairs is not a typo, it is rather a careful and creative decision.
The script of this movie is very well calculated and composed. It successfully depicts the witty plots of the two antagonists. Unlike most Hong Kong detective thrillers that always contain highly exaggerated plots, the story of this movie is quite realistic. As a matter of fact, the gun fight scenes are much fewer than I expected, it is more about the mind games and the psychological conflict of the characters. This profound examination of human nature makes it an adult movie. By adult I mean the mature perspective of the script writer. In short, the film features a very intense drama and distinguishes itself from those typical no brainer action adventure flicks. Please give a round applause to scriptwriter and director Alan Mak!
The cinematography is top notch. Merely the opening credit already gives you a feeling that this is not another mediocre Hong Kong production. With the use of the 2.35:1 widescreen format, the compositions are vivid and highly sophisticated, cold color like the black outfits of the characters or the gloomy background is used frequently to enhance the pessmistic atmosphere entrapping the characters. Experienced cinematographer Andrew Lau (who is also one of the directors of this movie) and Christopher Doyle should be acknowledged for their hard works.
Thanks to the brilliant script, almost every male character in the movie stands out distinctly. The two male leads Andy Lau and Tony Leung are both impressive. Tony Leung has played a similar role in The Longest Nite before, even the appearance of the character looks alike, so in terms of freshness and the exploitation of the character, I would say Andy Lau is the real focus of the movie. Supporting actors like Eric Tsang, Anthong Wong and Chapman To play out their parts appropriately. The weakest link is probably the three female characters. Apparently, the addition of these characters are mainly based on commercial decision. They don't seem to function very well in the story, especially Kelly Chen, her role needs serious enhancement. Sammi Cheng's novel writing parallels to Andy Lau's situation perfectly, but this sub plot is just presented so plain and lackluster that makes it look awkward.
The accomplishment of Infernal Affairs is not only the effort of the director, scriptwriter and the cast, what should not be ignored is the mutual effort of the entire crew. From the cinematography to the lighting, from Andy Lau to a minor actor, everyone is just so involved. It is this level or professionalism that marks the success of this movie.
The HK DVD version is a two disc package, with disc one featuring the film (Two endings are included but the alternate ending destroys the consistency of the movie a lot and is not recommended!) and disc two containing all the bonus materials. Easter egg can be found on disc 2 by tapping down the cursor until the english film title Infernal Affairs on the left side is highlighted. 8 minutes of extra footage (NG scenes) is available.
Reviewed by: Kantorates