Chinese Highs

Hong Kong cops'n' triads action prequel makes the grade

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DIRECTED BY Andrew Lau and Alan Mak

STARRING Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Carina Lau, Francis Ng

Opened August 20, Cert 15, 119 mins

THE CHARGED, HAUNTED atmosphere of Infernal Affairs, with its tortured cops and brooding criminals, seemed to suggest that somewhere along the line we’d missed out on something. The prologue alone hinted at past events to which the ensuing narrative could only allude. Well, prequel Infernal Affairs II?in true Godfather fashion?provides the back story, explaining how cop Yan (Tony Leung) ended up undercover in the triads and gangster Ming (Andrew Lau) became a mole in the police force. Suffice to say, it’s not exactly simple to follow…

Leung and Lau’s roles are taken here by Hong Kong pop heartthrobs Shawn Yue and Edison Chen, although their characters are given little more to do than react with increasing concern as events around them spiral out of control. The main focus this time is on their superiors, Inspector Wong and mob boss Sam (Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang, reprising their roles from the original), who orchestrate a series of betrayals and double-crosses in their shared desire to bring down the head of the Ngai crime family (Francis Ng). Wong, being on the ‘right’ side of the law, is the more compromised of the two, and it’s his efforts to exercise some sort of control over proceedings that gives the film its real dramatic power. Further complicating matters is the presence of Sam’s mistress Mary (Carina Lau), whose involvement in these tangled conspiracies expands the narrative range beyond the first film’s cat-and-mouse simplicity.

Relentlessly busy, IA2 contains more character detail and plot revelation than any viewer could hope to absorb. But directors Lau and Mak adhere so closely to genre archetypes that you can happily follow its drift even if you miss some of the particulars. Although bloated by operatic, slo-mo set-pieces seemingly designed to force it into epic territory, the film gives action fans the kicks they crave while deepening some already memorable and complex characters. No wonder Scorsese wants a bit of this for himself with a remake?the spadework’s been done, and the classic ingredients are all here.


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