Sunday, April 15, 2007

Infernal Affairs

Mou gaan dou; Crime/ Drama, China, 2002; D: Wai Keung Lau, Siu Fai Mak, S: Tony Leung, Andy Lau, Eric Tsang, Kelly Chen, Sammi Cheng, Edison Chen, Shawn Yue, Elva Hsiao

While attending the police academy together, Yan and Ming had to go different ways: Yan was expelled from the academy in order to become a mole inside the rows of the Triad, while Ming decided to work for the mobsters and become a secret agent for them, revealing the secret information from the police. Both of them fell into depression due to their stressful, double jobs. When the police prevents a drug smuggling plan, the chief of the Triad, Sam, starts searching for a mole, killing Yan's chief, but he also gets killed by Ming himself. Both Yan and Ming discover the other one is the mole. But Ming decides to stay faithful to the police, getting arrested by Yan. When Yan gets shot and killed because the police thought he is a criminal, Ming gets very sad, thinking if he should have taken a different route in his lie.

The story of the atmospheric Hong Kong crime drama "Infernal Affairs" works, as some have already noticed, on the principle of symmetry: one protagonist is a spy inside the mafia, while the other inside the police squad, mirroring their situations, fears, doubts and relationships on the other. This is a pure Hong Kong film- there are no big Hollywood like showdowns, or cliches, or annoying gimmicks - and both Tony Leung and Andy Lau delivered excellent roles, while the story is relaying more on character development than on suspense - even going so far to imply that the "bad mole" inside the police became good because he identified with his colleagues. The movie and his double "Faust" theme are definitely subtle and interesting, containing touching scenes (Yan is sadly staring at the dead body of his chief and close friend, who was thrown from the top of a building on the car) and wonderful loyalty between the characters (even though he knows Yan is a mole, a dying mobster decided to keep that information a secret), possessing lyrical humanity and calm wisdom, but as a whole it could have been more intense, apropos less tame. This achievement from directors Lau and Mak is very good, intelligent and deep, but also a little bit overrated: sometimes when a movie year is thin, the critics go to search for a great film, and when they don't find one, they sometimes over hype one that's only good.


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