In 2002, an exciting police thriller was released. Made in Hong Kong, in Chinese, it was called ‘Infernal Affairs’. The film concerned the infiltration of a criminal gang (Triad) by an undercover police officer. It is a dangerous task, as only his immediate superior is aware that he is actually doing this, and he has to convince the other gang members that he is a reliable criminal, and a loyal friend.
As this is happening, the local crime lord inserts one of his young proteges into the Police Force, where he can act as an undercover informant on police activities. As time passes, the undercover cop becomes overwhelmed with the stress of his role, but the criminal rises through the ranks of the police, always able to help to foil any attempts to capture the crime lord. This was an unusual premise, and everyone involved plays their parts well, resulting in an exciting film that has real tension throughout, as well as some nicely-executed set pieces. Both the crime lord and police chief realise they have infiltrators, and make every effort to discover who they are, without suspecting the real culprits.
I really enjoyed this film a lot, especially the unexpected ending.
Just four years later, the distinguished American film maker Martin Scorsese made a remake, in the US. He gathered a formidable cast, including Jack Nicholson as the crime boss, Mat Damon as the protege, and Leonardo DiCaprio as the undercover cop. Throw in Ray Winstone, Mark Wahlberg, Matin Sheen and Alec Baldwin, and the A-listers are tight for space on screen. I headed off to an afternoon showing at a big London cinema in Kensington, wondering if it would live up to the rave reviews of the critics.
Well, it was certainly a straight remake, albeit set in Boston. It had a lot of tension, and although Damon looked a lot like Jason Bourne, he was solid enough. As any regular readers will be well-aware, I do not find DiCaprio to be convincing, and he didn’t really convince me this time, either. Take the same story, much the same events, and then insert Jack Nicholson, and you are asking for trouble. As usual, he overplayed being Jack Nicholson, relishing every moment on screen to appear to be as nasty and unpredictable as he could. The film became mostly about him, and the convoluted story suffered as a result, in my opinion. It won four Oscars, and everyone seems to think it’s a wonderful film. Except me. It even tops the lists of many fans of the director.
I’m sticking with the Chinese original. No surprises there, I know.