Infernal Affairs

China (2002), 101 minutes
Starring: Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Chiu Wai, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang
Reviewer: Teri Tom
Genre: Action
Rating: 5

Infernal Affairs is a plotty movie, and I don’t like plotty movies. And since it’s a modern-day story about triads and cops, I figured there’d be guns. I don’t 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, let’s 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 it’s a story told so well, even the most plot-phobic viewer should leave with what I call Movie Hangover – that lingering tone of a film that stays with you for a few hours, maybe days, after viewing. Be warned, it’s a dark one.
The acting is superb all around. Of course, it is “Little Tony Leung” who steals the show. Without his nuanced performance, this might’ve 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. There’s 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 that’s a realistic plot device, but sometimes it doesn’t make for very interesting cinema.

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