In the Hong-Kong Film, Infernal Affairs, directors Wai-Keung (Andrew) Lau and Alan Mak explore the conflicts between loyalty and morality in the international genre of a cop movie. The predecessor to Martin Scorsese’s award winning film, The Departed, Infernal Affairs beautifully blends action and suspense with themes of loyalty and morality to create a movie that has enjoyed varying levels of success across the globe.
Produced in 2002, Infernal Affairs is a unique movie to emerge from Hong Kong’s film industry. Described by Leung Wing-Fai as: “a life saver for the Hong Kong Film Industry,” this blockbuster style film garnered an impressive $7 million (American dollars) in its home city alone (Leung 77). Blending a Hollywood blockbuster’s structure with elements of modern day Hong Kong, this film takes on an international quality that can be enjoyed by many different people from across the globe.
Infernal Affairs follows the lives of two police officers, Chan (Tony Leung) and Lau (Andrew Lau), as they manage the difficult task of leading doubles lives with ties to the authorities and with a nefarious gang. First seen at the police academy as a promising cadet, the first protagonist, Chan, is a young man who manages to quickly impress his superiors through his discipline and diligence. The other protagonist, Lau, is a young inductee of the gang, sent to infiltrate the police as an informant for the gang’s leader, Sam. After a short time in the academy together as cadets, fate quickly separates the two as Chan is seemingly thrown out of the academy only to become an upstanding undercover officer, while Lau continues on to eventually become a corrupt inspector for the police. In the future, the two men, now ten years into their respective jobs, lead the police and the gang in a game of cat and mouse as each side tries to outwit the other. While Chan and Lau continue to circle each other like hawks, they are confronted by the challenges in maintaining their loyalties and moral responsibilities as officers.
While watching this film, it is possible see the classic struggle between a person’s inner goodness and badness, shown in the form of a (good) cop movie. In Chan and Lau you have two sides of the same coin; Chan, the upstanding and moral informant, stands in sharp contrast to Lau, a police inspector whose split loyalties lead him to act as an informant for the gang’s leader. In these two men we see a conflict of morality and loyalty, where the outcome of this competition will determine the triumph of good (the police) and bad (the gang). Lau’s struggle to prioritize his loyalties makes for an especially interesting story, as his choices have a dramatic impact on everyone around him.
There are many components of Infernal Affairs that make it enjoyable to watch; one of the most captivating is the use of sound. When coupled with the fading in and out during scene transitions and the slow but suspenseful establishing shots, the music has the ability to invoke realistic emotions that are very moving to the audience. Scenes such as the first drug bust play music that creates a sense of suspense that can be felt in one’s bones, almost as if you were right in the middle of the action. In other scenes, such as the death of a character, the solemn music that is heard creates genuine feelings of sorrow. An already lively movie to begin with, the directors’ use of sound greatly enhances the film, inspiring feelings of fear, awe, and suspense that make the movie seem incredibly realistic.
Ultimately, Infernal Affairs has all of the components that are expected of a good action/cop movie. Lau and Mak have worked hard to create a film that does justice to the genre, providing quality acting, sound, and suspense all within a reasonable time frame. The storyline provides for an interesting movie, while the sound effects and editing will work to enhance the visual and audio experience of the viewer, creating an emotionally stimulating movie. While the occasional violence is not for the faint of heart, those with a passion for cop films and suspense will enjoy the movie to the fullest.
1. Vordnam, Jeff. “Infernal Affairs: aka Wu Jian Dao”. Aboutfilm.com. 2002. Image. http://www.aboutfilm.com/movies/i/infernalaffairs2.jpg
2. Wing-Fai, Leung. “Infernal Affairs and Kungfu Hustle: Panacea, Placebo, and Hong Kong Cinema”. In: Tauris World Cinema Series. London: I.B. Tauris. 2008. Print.