Infernal Affairs

Chinese, 2002

Directed by Andy Lau, Alan Mak

Starring: Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Chiu Wai, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang

101 minutes

Reviewed by: Teri Tom

Rating (a 1 Ė 6 scale): 5.5

Infernal Affairs is a plotty movie, and I donít like plotty movies. And since itís a modern-day story about triads and cops, I figured thereíd be guns. I donít like guns. So it was with great reluctance that I sat down to watch this film, which proves once again, there are always exceptions to the rule.

For the quick and dirty, letís just say Infernal Affairs gives us parallel stories of a triad mole (Andy Lau) placed in the police force, and a police mole (Tony Leung) placed in the triad organization.

It sounds complicated and plotty, but itís a story told so well, even the most plot-phobic viewer should leave with what I call Movie Hangover Ė that lingering tone of a film that stays with you for a few hours, maybe days, after viewing. Be warned, itís a dark one.

The acting is superb all around. Of course, it is "Little Tony LeungĒ who steals the show. Without his nuanced performance, this mightíve been the kind of film that usually turns me off to plots. With maximum efficiency he takes what little time is devoted to character development and wrings out every last drop of sympathy he can out of us. With bullets whizzing by and plotlines swirling about, Little Tony knows how to be still and lets us in.

Speaking of efficiency, the story is impeccably paced and Ziploc-tight. Events are timed and accented for maximum effect. The violence is not excessive or unnecessarily garish but just enough to stir the desired response. Thereís also an attention to small visual details that really enhances the tempo.

My only complaints are the somewhat abrupt epilogue and the predominance of computers as a plot device. Nowadays, I suppose thatís a realistic plot device, but sometimes it doesnít make for very interesting cinema.

Minor quibbles, though. Infernal Affairs is really quite brilliant in its well-oiled look at appearances and ambition.