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Infernal Affairs

Cast: Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Eric Tsang

Writers: Siu Fai Mak, Felix Chong

Cinematographers: Christopher Doyle, Lai Yiu Fai, Andrew Lau

Directors: Wai Keung Lau, Siu Fai Mak

This 2002 Hong Kong film was in the news as the source material for Martin Scorsese’s multiple Oscar-winning “The Departed.” “Infernal Affairs” is a sleek, spare, stylish and incredibly thought-provoking morality tale.

To describe the adrenalin-charged, testosterone-driven cops-and-gangsters tale as contemplative might seem like a bit of an oxy-moron but that is what directors Wai Keung Lau and Siu Fai Mak manage to do.

The film follows the lives of two young men, Chan and Lau. Lau joins the police force at the behest of his boss, Sam, a ruthless Triad leader. Chan, on the other hand, is a cop who is ordered to go deep undercover with the Triads by his boss, SP Wong.

Both the men excel in their given jobs. That is, Lau is an excellent policeman, rapidly moving up the ladder while Chan proves himself to be an able gangster. So you have a cop who is a capable gangster and a gangster who is good cop. Ten years go by and both the men are getting increasingly desperate as they try to figure out which of their double selves is the real one.

Matters come to a head with Wong and Sam suspecting a mole in their organisations. In one of those delicious ironies, both the men, Lau and Chan are given the job of finding the mole, which, in effect, is themselves. And so starts the dangerous game of smoke and shadows, where cell phones play an important part.

Mirrors images are a running theme through the film. The scene where Chan and Lau are following each other from the cinema theatre is a stylistic masterpiece.

The film for all its dissertations on crime and punishment is also a highly entertaining yarn. The music gives an incredible rush and the editing is razor-sharp. The dialogue, though colloquial, reveals all the gravitas of deep thought. Even the English title is a play on Lau’s job of smoking out the mole in the Internal Affairs Department as well as referring to Dante’s inferno, which is an apt description of the two men’s lives.

The highly-decorated film, speaks a new exciting grammar of the crime story. The cast deliver uniformly rock-solid performances, from Andy Lau as Lau and Tony Leung Chiu Wai (he won the best actor award at Cannes for “In the Mood for Love”) as Chan to Eric Tsang as the smiling assassin Sam and Anthony Wong as the police chief Wong.

The film at 101 minutes is spare and uses intelligence rather than slo-mo shots of two handed pistols and snappy editing to ratchet the tension.

“Infernal Affairs” is presented by Palador Pictures and apart from the main movie, there is the Indie Corner, which features the student films of directors who have made their name in Indian cinema. This DVD features “Bonga”, Kundan Shah’s diploma film at the Film and Television Training Institute, Pune, where he studied.

The film, with no dialogue, shows the seeds of the brilliant satirical talent that gave us the cult film “Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron”. “Bonga” also gives us a chance to see actors like Om Puri, Satish Kaushik, Suresh Oberoi and Sudhir Pandey as student actors. There is a thrill of recognising Calendar and Anant Velankar before they became household names!

MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER

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