"Remember this, if you see someone doing something but at the same time watching you... then he is a cop"
Triad boss Hon Sam (Eric Tsang) sends a group of young gangsters to join the Hong Kong Police academy with the hope that they will infiltrate the department, rise through the ranks and help him to avoid the attentions of the Police. One of the most successful of these youngsters is Lau (Andy Lau) who ascends the chain of command rapidly. One of Lau’s fellow cadets Chan Wing-yan (Tony Leung) is expelled from the Academy but secretly becomes an undercover cop, hoping to infiltrate Sam’s Triads.
The film is full of suspense and suspicion as we go back and forth between the two moles, both trying to discover the other’s identity while keeping theirs hidden. The plot is highly original, complex and fascinating but it’s a shame I’d already seen Martin Scorsese's fantastic remake The Departed because I knew how things were going to pan out. Even though I knew the ending there were still enough differences and surprises to keep the action fresh. The film also feels much more like a Michael Mann film than a Scorsese.
One of the great thins about the film it its acting. I don’t know a lot about Hong Kong cinema but it appears that this is similar to something like The Avengers or The Expendables in that it has an impressive all star cast. When I compare it to those films though think only in terms of its star power. The two leads Lau and Leung are superb and they are supported by a highly able group of actors. The film is also shot in a stylish and attractive manner with some interesting camera angles, quick, sometimes jumpy editing and great locations. A frequent rooftop location is stunning. The soundtrack is also impressive but sometimes I thought it put too much emphasis on how the audience should be feeling and was too obvious.
I have only once problem with the film and that is that the two central characters were both aware of each other as Cadets and I find it difficult to believe that neither would have been aware of what the other was up to at some point with all the arrests and frequent surveillance. Surely at some point during the ten years something would have become apparent?
As regular readers will know I’m not a fan of remakes and try to see films in their original language. I’d been meaning to see this film for six years since I first saw The Departed and having now seen both I am still glad for Scorsese’s remake. I think enough was altered to make it worthwhile and it is in my opinion a slightly better film. That isn’t to say though that Infernal Affairs is not excellent because it definitely is. This is a film that I am really glad I got around to seeing and I should have seen it a long time ago.