Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Infernal Affairs (Mou gaan dou)

Andy Lau and Tony Leung go head to head in this cat and mouse thriller that rocked Hong Kong in 2002. Andy Lau is Lau Kin Ming, a senior inspector in title but in actuality he is mole for triad leader Hon Sum. Tony Leung is Chan Wing Yan, a man who has been living undercover as a gangster for ten years now and has gotten close to Hon Sum. The two moles begin to suspect their rival organizations of having a mole, but they don't know who the other is. Using their resources they try to track down each other without blowing their cover.

Yes, folks, it's taken me almost a decade, but I finally got around to watching the source material for The Departed. Man, what an excellent film. I really didn't expect to like this one so much because I figured The Departed would blow it away, but Infernal Affairs more than held its own and in some ways it was a much better film than its remake.

When The Departed came out in 2006 it became an instant classic. I fell in love with it immediately, too. I thought surely that it was one of the most original films I had ever seen and the classic twists at the end were something only could have come from the mind of Martin Scorsese. Scorsese envisioned a masterpiece and created one. However, I shortly learned after seeing the film that it was actually a remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs. Of course, William Monahan wrote the screenplay without even watching Infernal Affairs so the two are similar while also being remarkably different. Still, so many of those shocking twists were not original to The Departed

I don't want this review to become a full-on comparison between the two, but I suppose comparisons have been going on for years now and my two cents won't matter much. The Departed didn't do Infernal Affairs any outright injustices, but it's just that one is far more Americanized and concludes on a "bad guy gets his" sort of thing that doesn't happen in the other.

This movie begins with an abstract credits scene and quotes about circles of Hell and whatnot. So there's definitely a different vibe. There also is not a lot of humor. A lot of the dialog present in the remake isn't there in the original. Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin's witty banter had its origins elsewhere. This movie downplays a lot of the violence and there's no excessive bloodshed, too. There also isn't anywhere near the amount of swearing. This is, by all accounts, a fairly clean movie with the exception of a bit cocaine usage.

Andy Lau and Tony Leung are impressive leads, though. Those of us in the West are largely unfamiliar with them unless we have hobbies that are a bit unusual, but Tony Leung is considered to be Asia's answer to Clark Gable and Andy Lau is probably more like a modern day Frank Sinatra.

The two are talented and it is easy to see. Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio had huge shoes to fill when they stepped into the remake and this movie makes me respect their performances even more. Lau and Leung were just so good in their own right that it must have been tough for fans of this movie to have hope back when The Departed and its cast was first announced. Remember when no one respected DiCaprio? Had I been a fan of this movie back before ever watching The Departed then he would have been the last guy I'd want to be involved, too.

At about 100 minutes, Infernal Affairs is also much shorter. A short montage at the beginning of the film introduces the situations and beginnings of the two main characters and then we enter the main bit of the story. The subplot about Matt Damon and DiCaprio loving the same woman isn't present in this movie and that's kind of a relief. This movie moves much faster and doesn't indulge too much in extraneous story devices like that.

Infernal Affairs is succinct and to the point while The Departed has a bit more flourish to it. Neither is bad, but they are certainly as different and they are similar. It's tough to say which one is better.

Passing on Infernal Affairs would be a big no-no, though. I don't care how many times you have seen The Departed. This movie is an excellent one. Watch it. This is where it all began.

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