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With: Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Eric Tsang, Kelly Chen
Written by: Felix Chong, Alan Mak
Directed by: Andrew Lau, Alan Mak
MPAA Rating: R for violence
Language: Cantonese with English subtitles
Running Time: 97
Date: 12/12/2002

Infernal Affairs (2002)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Undercover Blues

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This intense, explosive Hong Kong thriller ushers in a new era of hyper-intelligent action, displacing the genre's once-prevalent balletic violence, originally pioneered by John Woo. Infernal Affairs (2002) became the highest-grossing film in the country's history, quickly beating out Stephen Chow's Shaolin Soccer and spawning two sequels before Americans even knew of its existence. Tony Leung plays a cop who goes undercover, working for a triad boss, while Andy Lau plays a triad gangster who becomes a mole in the police department. Neither knows the other's identity, and each is assigned to find the other.

Both men grow more and more isolated from reality, and each has onlyone other person -- father figures in the form of the triad boss and a police captain -- that knows the truth. This slender thread of safety heightens the film's natural drama, but co-directors Andrew Lau (no relation to star Andy Lau) and Alan Mak deliver a slick, beautifully-paced action film on top of it. Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang co-star, and legendary cinematographer Christopher Doyle serves as a "visual consultant."

Distributor Miramax purchased Infernal Affairs around the same time as the other Asian hits Hero and Shaolin Soccer and treated it with the same disregard, keeping it on the shelf for two years before haphazardly releasing it in America. They have now dumped it on an American DVD with an insultingly misleading box cover featuring a gun-wielding, scantily-clad woman who never appears in the film.

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