Two men. Two moles. Yan is your typical undercover cop, tough, smart, and extremely hard-boiled. Before graduating the police academy, Yan is sent by his official to infiltrate the triads. Ming is one of Hong Kong's most decorated cops. However, his awards and promotions are only
illusions. Sam, his triad boss, sent him to join the academy to become an officer. With tips
from Sam against their triad rivals, Ming steadily becomes one of Hong Kong's elite. But all things, no matter good or evil, must come to an end. So begins the face-off. Only one man, one mole will survive.
For more about Infernal Affairs and the Infernal Affairs Blu-ray release, see Infernal Affairs Blu-ray Review published by Greg Maltz on September 13, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Infernal Affairs earned a spot close to my heart when the two main characters find themselves face-to-face in a boutique audio shop calmly demo'ing a high end tube amp, speakers, and cables. Yan (Tony Leung) is an undercover cop working in the Triad crime organization and Ming (Andy Lau) is a Triad operative working in the police department. Both men have succeeded in their positions and their undercover lives. But the pressures, dangers and loneliness of leading a secret dual exestince is starting to take its toll, especially on Yan. He must deal with the unbearable pressures of knowing not only that Triad boss Sam (Eric Tsang) would kill him if his cover is blown, but that the only man on earth who knows his true identity is the police chief forcing him to continue his undercover work.
High above Hong Kong, Ming (left) and Yan (right) confront each other in the film's riveting climax.
Despite the challenges of acting as undercover operatives, Lau and Leung play their roles to
perfection and are thoroughly convincing. Andrew Lau is also to be credited for masterful
direction. His skills both behind and in front of the camera carry the story through long periods of
little action, and develop the plot as more of a psychological thriller. Most films in the genre rely
heavily on action and violence. Infernal Affairs has its share, but it is paced by an unexpected
series of twists and turns to take the story in innovative directions. The question of good and evil
takes on new urgency when the Triad mole excels in the police force doing good and the police
mole must exist as a gangster, committing crimes, so that his true identity is not discovered.
The lines between right and wrong slowly start to disintegrate, along with the characters' notions
Andrew Lau also brings to life another character--the city itself. With expert cinematography
capturing Hong Kong's streets, neighborhoods and buildings, Infernal Affairs accomplishes great
tension, gritty realism and story movement. By focusing strongly on character development, the
film avoids cliches and keeps audiences on their toes as it moves with bold strokes toward the
unpredictable conclusion. Martin Scorcese earned many long overdue Oscar awards for The
Departed, but reviewers believed it was weak compared to Infernal Affairs.
Perhaps as a homage to older cops-and-robbers movies or maybe because of film predominantly
available in Asia, Infernal Affairs has the look of dated filmstock, with visible grain. The Blu-ray resolves
this noise beautifully. It is so convincing, you feel as though you are watching projected film rather than
a digital medium. The overall picture is almost up to par with the most detailed Blu-ray, but since the
source material may not be as pristine as the immaculate, big-budget production, the end product is not
as glitzy. Color saturation, black level and contrast are all excellent. The sum of these qualities equals
the whole, as the overall look has ample depth and richness. Much of the film is shot in dark areas or at
night, for a noir feel, and I noticed no pixelation during these scenes.
Some of the camerawork was ultramodern and stood in stark contrast to the film's gritty texture. For
example, Yan's rooftop meetings with the police chief show his reflection in the glass as he walks high
above Hong Kong, altering his appearance as a stylistic element and visual analogy of his dual existence.
The postmodernity of these long shots coupled with the grainy texture was an interesting clash, fully
resolved on Blu-ray. The picture was in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, so those HDTV enthusiasts who still
complain about the top and bottom of the screen being "cut off", be forewarned. To repeat the obvious,
2.35:1 is a common choice of directors and the original aspect ratio must be preserved.
The voices are rich and detailed, but most viewers who do not speak Cantonese will pay more
attention to the subtitles. The BD includes Cantonese PCM 5.1, Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1,
Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 and subtitles in traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese and English. It is
critical to hear the actors' real voices for cues in mood and urgency.
The music, featuring Asian pop stars and heavy influence of western instrumentation, is dramatic
and detailed. The production is impressive, if not the most open or deep soundstage. Like the
visuals, the audio features a noirish, subdued element that is rich and appealing. It takes a
backseat to the in-your-face Hollywood productions, but I found this foreign sound quality charming
and welcome. Unfortunately, very little deep bass information is present. But to be fair, the movie
does not feature as much action or violence as western crime dramas, and therefore fewer scenes
with heavy gunfire or explosions.
A cult classic in Asia and beyond, Infernal Affairs has significant material produced about it. Some content is included on the Blu-ray production, but serious fans will wish for more. The BD bonus features include audio commentary by the director, a teaser, a theatrical trailer and a featurette providing details on the maiking of the film.
Perhaps the greatest strength of Infernal Affairs is that the diametrically opposed undercover cop
and criminal have the most in common with each other. Despite their cat-and-mouse game--or
perhaps because of it--they can relate to each other in ways no other character in the film can
begin to understand. And yet they are pitted against each other. Other films in this genre have
their own take on this phenomenon; most notably Heat, a big budget Hollywood production with
the best American actors and over-the-top action sequences. Infernal Affairs is welcoming in its
smaller scope and less known actors. And of course, it inspired The Departed (Blu-ray.com review
My only criticism of this Blu-ray is some typos in the English subtitles--mainly from missing
spaces that should separate words. The typos were minor, but contributed to the lower-budget,
foreign feel. Two sequels--Infernal Affairs 2 and 3--have been produced, but so far, neither have
been released on Blu-ray. Based on the quality of the original's story, acting and 1080p resolution,
one can only hope that the others will be produced for BD soon. Infernal Affairs comes strongly
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