When it was belatedly released in the UK earlier this year, Infernal Affairs provoked some surely outlandish comparisons with heavyweight Hollywood crime epics like Heat and The Godfather. Is it really that good? Er, not quite.
It looks pretty stylish?much-celebrated cinematographer and Wong Kar-Wai collaborator Christopher Doyle is credited as “visual consultant”, and with co-directors Andy Lau and Alan Mak, he gives the film a sleek, often hallucinatory look, which is both modish and dramatically appropriate. There are also suitably intense central performances from Hong Kong superstars Tony Leung and Andy Lau?as, respectively, an undercover cop who’s infiltrated the Kowloon criminal organisation of the ruthless Boss Sam and a Triad mole, planted in the Hong Kong police department by the devious Sam.
The parallel narratives that follow the serially frustrated attempts by both cops and gangsters to identify the traitor in their ranks is both clever and often nail-bitingly tense, and there are a couple of outstanding set-pieces?including a complex drug score and a brief but ferocious gunfight?but the conflict between the two leads somehow lacks the vital spark that would have elevated Infernal Affairs to the stature to which it aspires. Smart ending, though.