Film of the week: Infernal Affairs

As you are probably aware, The Departed is one of the giddiest fun films of the decade — a hard-boiled joyride through Boston gangsters, cops, moles, deception, double-crossing, and betrayal — and well deserving of its Best Picture Oscar.

What you may not be aware of is that The Departed is an almost scene-for-scene remake of an astonishing 2002 Hong Kong film: Infernal Affairs.

Why watch Infernal Affairs if you’ve already seen The Departed? Well, Infernal Affairs has a rhythm and energy that immerses you in the underworld of the Hong Kong triads that if anything makes it more of a sensual thrill ride than its US remake. If you’re already familiar with Hong Kong films then you’ll know what I mean — if not, just take my word for it, you’ll love it.

It’s also amazing to watch the Hong Kong actors do such an outstanding job in the roles that have subsequently come to be identified with Jack Nicholson, Leo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, et al four years later.

Now, some of you who don’t normally watch foreign films will be thinking, first, I don’t like subtitles, and second, it must be a substandard production compared to the American version simply based on budget if nothing else. To which I respond: you get used to the subtitles in about two minutes — and as with the best of Hong Kong cinema, the production values are just fine — the film is hypermodern in appearance and feel, almost Blade Runner-ish in atmosphere.

Finally, if you really like this kind of thing, go ahead and spring for The Infernal Affairs Trilogy boxed set — they made two sequels/prequels to the original and they both continue the same themes and characters.