Infernal Affairs (2002) Review

"Infernal Affairs" Japanese Theatrical Poster

"Infernal Affairs" Japanese Theatrical Poster

Director: Andrew Lau, Alan Mak
Writer: Felix Chong, Alan Mak
Producer: Andrew Lau
Cast: Andy Lau Tak-Wah, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Sammi Cheng Sau-Man, Kelly Chan, Edison Chen, Shawn Yu Man-Lok, Elva Hsiao Ah-Hin, Chapman To, Gordon Lam, Ng Ting Yip, Wan Chi Keung
Running Time: 100 min.

By Alexander

Fellow City on Fire reviewer Raging Gaijin had this to say in a recent review: “Now I know the whole ‘the good, the bad, the ugly’ approach to writing a review is over-used and cliché.”

To this I say, Fuck you, dude. My review of Infernal Affairs:

The Good: Tony Leung shines in his role as Yan, and is easily the best thing about IA. Since Tony Leung has appeared in every Hong Kong movie since 1982’s Five Element Ninja (as a tree ninja, I think), it’s easy to forget that we’re actually watching Tony Leung in character, and not just watching Tony Leung walking around as…Tony Leung. I mean, he’s so pervasive in Hong Kong cinema that we don’t point at the television and say, “Hey, that’s Yan, an undercover cop.” We say: “Hey, that’s Tony Leung.” Because Anthony Wong and Sammi Cheng and Andy Lau don’t really act. Instead, they just sort of exist in front of the camera and play themselves, film after film, while only occassionally “getting in character” by donning fat suits and wigs. But in THIS film, I did forget that I was watching Tony Leung. I saw a disheveled, conflicted, hard-working cop, NOT Tony. THAT’S a testament to how good he is in IA. More good: the story is pretty solid and Anthony Wong as Anthony Wong is great. (In fact, he’s as good here as he was in his debut, 1977’s The Three-Fingered Disciples of Shaolin).

The Bad: The worst thing about IA is the hype surrounding it. A few of the reviews I’ve read tout IA as the best thing to emerge from HK since John Woo’s The Killer and Wong Kar Wai’s Chungking Express. Bullshit. IA is a solid crime flick that proves moderately entertaining. That’s it. Nothing great, and certainly not worthy of TWO sequels. Because I was expecting something superior (superior writing, superior directing, superior this and that and everything else) as result of the effusive praise spewed by bored Asian film fanboys, I was ultimately let down by the average-ness of IA. (You know what I hate? I hate it when Asian film forum posters toss out the increasingly irrelevant and erroneous “You can’t compare Hollywood films to Asian films!” Again, bullshit. Take the underrated U.S. film Narc, for instance. Good movie. Had this film looked exactly the same but had been produced by an Asian crew with an Asian cast, it would have been recognized as the best movie ever to emerge out of HK. THAT’S how far behind Asia is in the realm of filmaking. I mean, if Narc, a film 54 people saw in the theaters, according to IMDB, is that superior to the best Asia has to offer, then how good are Asian films REALLY? Hm? Comparisons are NECESSARY to ensure the bar is set high in Asian film; to ensure we’ll keep seeing creative crime drama gems like The Killer and The Longest Nite, and not generic fare like IA which is only as good as the best episodes of Law and Order.)

The Ugly: Sammi Cheng. Once Hong Kong’s hardest working actress, she’s relegated to a minutes-long cameo as one of the character’s wives. Remember her award-winning turn in the martial arts classic Ancient Shaolin Seamstress? How the mighty have fallen.

The Bottom Line: IA is solid, but not as great as some would have you believe.

Alexander’s Rating: 6.5/10

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