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Infernal Affairs back to product details

A very original and complicated story presented in a frustrating format
written by carlykristen December 20, 2006 - 1:30 PM PST
Infernal Affairs (2002) Rated R, Media Asia  Directed by Wai Keung Lau & Siu Fai Mak

Shawn Yue plays a young police officer who gets pulled out of the academy to become an undercover as a mole in the local mafia. Edison Chen plays a young mafia member who is infiltrating the police force by joining the academy. Years later, their older counterparts (played by Tony Leung and Andy Lau respectively) race against time to expose the mole within their midst and destroy him.

What is unique about this film (other than exposing corruption within our law enforcement) is that both men become so absorbed in their roles that they forget who they are. It becomes painful for them to continue the charade even when their bosses give accolades for their work. In the end, each longs to switch back and be in the other's place.

This film isn't just a thriller and a race to see who will win. Ultimately, despite the end results, no one is a winner here. The film deals with the importance of honesty and identity. Ideally, if a person is honest with themselves and others around them, they can at least be at peace with who they are regardless of their place in life. Policeman or gangster; neither is a perfect life when none of it is true.

I enjoyed the parallels between both men living different lives with both feeling lonely and trapped. The wife writing the story about a man with multiple personalities mimics the secret life of her hardworking "cop" husband.

I think this is a topnotch story, however, it suffers from so many technicalities. One case in point, is the music. During one of the most dramatic scenes, they show an integral person die and then cue ridiculous, soap opera-type Chinese music. And I laughed. I do not think that was their intention, but that is what happened.

The title itself doesn't make much sense. "Infernal" means damnable and "Damnable Affairs" is a mediocre title at best. It should have been aptly titled "Internal Affairs". "Internal" meaning it was dealing with law enforcement and gang activity by penetrating their defenses internally while the film subtly examines the internal effects of changing a person's external attributes such as name, career, family, appearance, etc., but I digress&

The love story between the gangster and the psychiatrist feels underdeveloped. She is on screen for all of 5 seconds and I cannot figure out why either loves the other without any disclosure of their personalities, likes, or dislikes. How did they connect on any level? This makes her action/reaction at the ending a bit corny and nonsensical.

The sound (Dolby Digital 5.1) and film quality are good, but there is a huge problem with the subtitles. The film only offers Cantonese and Mandarin as the languages with no English dubs. The English subtitles flash quickly across the screen, so not only do I have to use my speed reading abilities to catch every word, I have to use my magical mental powers to also catch every action on screen and determine who is who in a film where the actors all look alike, swap places, and age many years. This gave me a migraine and I had to rewind several times since I missed a lot of the dialogue. This is a real shame. I think this took away from the viewing experience and the wonderful story that unfolded at lightening speed toward the end. I felt cheated.

They need to re-release this film dubbed in English with better subtitles. Even the DVD cover (Miramax Version) makes no sense as it features a woman pointing a gun that isn't even in the film (!). If all of the flaws mentioned above were fixed, I could have easily have given this a Perfect 10. But alas, all is not well and it did not earn a 10.

Favorite Quote: Wife in response to her story about a man with multiply personalities, "I can't finish my story. Even though he is a good guy, he has done bad things. How do you think it should end?" Husband replies, "That is a good question&"

DVD Extras: Disc 2 features (only in Chinese of course) the Story, Behind the Scenes, a Music Video, a Making of Featurette, Trailers, More Attractions, Cast Credits & Bios, Photo Gallery, and 1 hidden Easter Egg of Bloopers. Media Asia version is missing the Alternate Ending featured on the Miramax Home Entertainment version.

Bottom Line: A very original and complicated story presented in a frustrating format.

Rating: 8/10

Molly Celaschi

written by talltale December 13, 2004 - 6:47 AM PST
3 out of 3 members found this review helpful
For me the biggest surprise about INFERNAL AFFAIRS is that that there's little shoot-em-up action and even less martial arts display. This is a police procedural that relies as much on technology as anything else--plus the crack performances of the two terrific leads Leung and Lau. What a great combination they provide. The ideas here--moles upon moles upon moles, and the difficulty of keeping one's loyalties in line--are good ones and their execution even better. Little wonder Scorsese is planning an American remake, though I doubt it'll be any better than this.

Heats up!
written by kohnfused1 August 10, 2004 - 10:17 AM PDT
5 out of 5 members found this review helpful
Think of a John Woo film pre-Hollywood, but without the gun ballet/violence and you come up with "Infernal Affairs". This is not a knock on the movie, since it is obvious it can stand solely on the writing, but more of a compliment. The script is simple, however, it is the performance of the two lead characters that drive the movie beyond its normal boundaries. Once again, Tony Leung is excellent. His co-stars are just as good, and worthy of the praise. What makes this film work is the restraint of the writer (or director) in making caricatures out of the typical cops and robbers theme. It's almost understated. In any event, I was quite surprised by the effectiveness of this film and highly recommend it.

BTW, eventhough this movie is classified as an "action/adventure", it seems to fall more on the "thriller/suspense" genre.

A Scanner Darkly
written by cammelltoe August 9, 2004 - 3:06 AM PDT
5 out of 6 members found this review helpful
The supposed NEXT BIG THING in hong kong action, INFERNAL AFFAIRS succsessfully combines a favorite John Woo plot contrivance--- cops vs. robbers, the ethical ambiguity of being undercover...I'm thinking HARD-BOILED, THE KILLER, A BETTER TOMMOROW--- with the cool, almost static action style pioneered by Johnnie To in THE MISSION. While a lot of the cat and mouse antics of the storyline are needleesly confusing, the struggle for identity wrought by the two protagonists is engrossing. And with alot of the pros of the "golden age" of HK action (Chow yun-fat, Michelle Kwan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen) struggling to make crap in the states it's great to see Tony Leung and the always phenomenal Anthony Wong keeping it real. See it before Martin Scorese gets to remake it with Brad Pitt.

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(Average 7.70)
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