The classic Infernal Affairs trilogy gets the blu-ray treatment…
It’s fair to say that despite a proportional upsurge in the last decade and a massive output, Asian films don’t always travel well internationally. If America isn’t busy with its own domestic product then it’s re-imagining those foreign movies with its own talent for its own cinema. Either through the sheer weight of its own product – or ironically the very variety of foreign movies to choose from – it means that only a few actually enter the American/ international consciousness and multiplexes beyond the existing fan base. It’s certainly improving in leaps and bounds, but it still takes a special movie to catch the mainstream attention.
It’s fair to say that Infernal Affairs achieved that to some regard. Even though far more will have seen The Departed, the remake starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Ray Winstone and Jack Nicholson, the original story was one that was solid enough to transcend borders and make a name for itself. First and foremost it’s a clever story, one that combines action, intrigue and a complex story that requires your attention without ever revealing how it will reach its climax.
Inspector Lau Kin Ming (Andy Lau) and Chen Wing Yan (Tony Leung) live parallel lives on opposite sides of the law ; one works for the police hunting down criminals, the other working his way up through the echelons of the local Triads. The thing is, to the outsider, their roles don‘t reflect their real jobs. Ming is actually a mole for the Triads, a long-term asset placed to monitor their investigations. Yan may look like a trusted right-hand man in a criminal empire, but he’s a police mole aiming to bring the whole organisation down. However, their respective missions are compromised when they learn of their opposite number’s existence – but not their identity. So begins a cat-and-mouse game with each fighting a duplicitous war and keeping themselves above suspicion.
Given the way that the original story plays out, the idea of continuing the story might have seemed as problematic as it was tempting, but in the film industry sequels come along for a lot more flimsier reasons. Infernal Affairs II is, by necessity a prequel and shifts its emphasis onto some of the original’s secondary characters as well as the much earlier days of the two moles (Edison Chen now playing Ming, Shawn Yue as Yan). It’s nowhere near as good as the original, though having set such a high standard, that might be to expected. What we get is a solid enough outing, fleshing out a story effectively if not necessarily one that needed it.
The third film might also have seemed somewhat opportunistic, but it brings both the original central stars back, one in a story set after the events of the first film, the other in the past. This is the sort of film that might be another solid outing, but will also likely prove impenetrable to the casual film-goer, who will need to have seen the first (and possibly second) to fully appreciate it. The Departed managed to tie up a lot of loose ends in one movie but as the original Infernal Affairs outing was happy to leave things a little more open, it’s up to this second sequel to tidy things up.
A fair selection of extras inhabit this blu-ray edition as well. There are featurettes, often visually led from original eastern material, which give you a glimpse behind the camera (including out-takes and alternate scenes) and here’s a chance to see the original English trailer (truly dreadful!)
Without revealing key spoilers a solid review is difficult, but all three films are worth watching and while – as in many cases – the first film is undeniably the best, the two follow-ups are nothing to be ashamed of. Viewed as one saga, there’s certainly some unnecessary padding and in total it could have been a leaner beast, but kudos has to be given for constructing a story that requires the viewer’s complete attention and some brainpower, rather than just going with a formula that would have allowed some armchair apathy. Intelligent dramas are few and far between, far too often tilting towards empty set-pieces or navel-gazing pondering. Slow this saga might be, but it’s also quite often infernally good. Existing fans know that already. New ones certainly have something to look forward to.
(See www.impactonline.co for an exclusive Infernal Affairs box-set competition)