Infernal Affairs

The first part of a trilogy of Hong Kong films about two men who attended the police academy together and wound up in exactly the same position on opposite sides of the law, this stunning thriller was remade by Martin Scorsese as THE DEPARTED (2006). Ming (Andy Lau) and Yan (Tony Leung) were cadets together, but Yan enrolled so he could become a by-the-book...read more

Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
Rating:

The first part of a trilogy of Hong Kong films about two men who attended the police academy together and wound up in exactly the same position on opposite sides of the law, this stunning thriller was remade by Martin Scorsese as THE DEPARTED (2006). Ming (Andy Lau) and Yan (Tony Leung) were cadets together, but Yan enrolled so he could become a by-the-book law enforcer while Ming (played in flashbacks by Edison Chen) was sent to the academy by big-time drug lord Sam (Eric Tsang), a long-view thinker who'd rather raise his own crop of crooked cops from the ground up than risk trying to corrupt one who might be honest to the core. As part of an equally long-term plan formulated by Superintendent Wong (Anthony Wong), straight-arrow Yan (played in flashbacks by Shawn Yue) is booted out of the academy in apparent disgrace and ordered to establish himself as a low-level crook. After 10 years of deep-cover work, Yan rises through Hong Kong's criminal underground to a prominent position in Sam's operation, from which he can help the Triad Bureau bring Sam and his contacts down. For security reasons, the only person who knows Yan is really a cop is Superintendent Wong, and their rooftop meetings appear to be all that stand between Yan and a major meltdown. Ming, meanwhile, has worked his way up through the ranks of the police department and is now a top dog in the Internal Affairs department. Ming knows there's a police mole in Sam's gang, and Yan knows there's a triad mole in the police department; neither knows his counterpart's identity and each has been assigned to root the other out. With a huge drug deal in the offing, Sam orders Superintendent Wong's murder, leaving Yan unable to come in from the cold without exposing himself. Alan Mak and Felix Chong's insanely convoluted screenplay is rescued from incomprehensibility by the fearful symmetry of its premise, but even when the film is in danger of getting bogged down in its own complications, the hard-boiled poetry of its images is arresting. Shot by director Andrew Lau and screenwriter Mak (with "visual consultation" by Christopher Doyle) and edited by Thai-based writer-director Danny Pang, the twin tales move like freight trains on a collision course; the film spawned both a prequel, INFERNAL AFFAIRS II and a sequel, INFERNAL AFFAIRS III (both 2003).

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