Monday, October 14, 2013

A Movie You Might Have Missed: 38

Martin Scorsese remade this as The Departed. Watch the original instead.

38. Infernal Affairs
(Hong Kong)

This stylistic, smart movie takes the classic crime plot of police versus criminals and turns it into an exciting battle of wits.

Police Superintendent Wong takes his best police cadet, Yan, and has him go undercover to become a mole in the drug-running Triad gang. Unbeknownst to them, the Triad’s leader, Sam, is doing the exact same thing with a young gang member, Lau, who has a clean record and will be accepted into police cadet school.

After years pass both Lau and Yan have become accepted, valuable members of their respective groups. During a drug bust, both the police and the Triad gang become aware that each has been infiltrated by a mole. In an ironic move, the moles are both so trusted that each is tasked by his superior with discovering who the mole is within his own group. Simultaneously, each is contacted by his real boss and told to discover who the mole is in the other group.

What follows is a fascinating plot twist in which each mole struggles to retain his anonymity. while discovering the other’s identity. This movie is gripping until the very end and keeps you guessing the entire time. Everything is masterfully brought together in the last ten minutes with a denouement that gives the entire movie unexpected depths.

This movie was so popular in Hong Kong that it inspired two sequels, Infernal Affairs II which actually was a prequel, and Infernal Affairs III which continues the story begun in the original movie. We watched this movie in the original Cantonese with English subtitles. It was fascinating to hear the large quantity of English scattered through regular conversation. “Channel,” “sorry,” “entrance,” “ok,” “bye,” and “sir” are just a few of the words constantly breaking the pattern of Chinese dialogue.

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