Directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, starring Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang.
Picking up a slew of Hong Kong film awards and spawning two sequels, the acclaim lavished on cop thriller 'Infernal Affairs' has continued in the West where a Hollywood remake is planned and journalists have come close to horrific copy pile-ups in their praise for the film. The British magazine 'Uncut' went as far as to say it was "the finest contemporary cop drama since 'Heat'" which, presumably, might have fans of 'Narc' and 'Donnie Brasco' unable to finish their dinner.
'Infernal Affairs' does owe lots to 'Heat' - the look, the flipside
protagonists, the city as a character, music that recalls Moby's version of 'New Dawn Fades' - and it represents a shift away from the 'no shootout too big' theory associated with Hong Kong cinema. It is, however, a film where two charismatic actors - and in particular Leung - make up for the inability of two directors to wring the maximum tension from the storyline.
Police offer Yan (Leung) has been working deep cover in the Hong Kong triads for 10 years and now he wants out. Gang member Ming (Lau) has gone in the opposite direction and risen to the rank of police sergeant and now he'd rather be a cop than a stooge. Unknown to each other, their paths have been crossing for many years and with Yan/Ming's police superior tightening the noose on Yan/Ming's crime king boss, the streets of Hong Kong are the location for a series of showdowns.
Directors Lau and Mak put some fine set pieces together but the end film is disappointing because there needed to be more cat and mouse games between Yan and Ming. Some more human drama involving both wouldn't have hurt, either, to make the emotional impact hit harder and last longer. John Woo excelled at showing the connection that could be made between characters and audience before, during and after the mayhem, here the shootouts are brief but you don't care about the compromised heroes the same way as you did about those in 'Bullet in the Head', 'The Killer' and 'Hard Boiled'.
Make sure you've seen 'Narc' and 'Donnie Brasco' first.