Finally, something R rated! It's not that I want things to be R-rated, but it was getting really hard to write these MPAA sections. I oddly had to look up the Parents' Guide on IMDb because everything was jumbling up in my brain. It's for violence and language, guys. Sure, there are drugs in the movie. People even use these drugs. But what do we care about? Language and violence. There are some pretty gnarly and disturbing things in this movie because, instead of exploiting this stuff, they made it mundane. Yeah, that's some messed up stuff. R.
DIRECTORS: Andrew Lau and Alan Mak
Guys, I love The Departed. I know of at least one person who has written me for that sentence. I don't care. I think it's great. Do you want to know something else about The Departed and me? I haven't watched it in ages. Do you know what format I have it on? HD-DVD. Yeah, that means I have to go the basement and warm up the ol' XBox 360 with external HD-DVD drive just to get this thing to play. Yeah, I gotta get around to watching that one, if the HD-DVD didn't deteriorate.
Listen, I am having a hard morning. It's not January 10 for me. It's January 6. I'm going through stuff. Also, I just lost about fifteen minutes worth of writing when my browser just shut down for what seemed like no reason. I was having a bad day before that and now I'm desperate to get this done. Nothing about this article will be quality. Sometimes, being done is better than being perfect. (Although, my volume of typos was pointed out to me last night. For those people who care about my typos, this blog is word vomit. The sheer bounty of writing that this blog has developed means I don't have the time or the willpower to go back and proofread before publishing.)
When The Departed came out, I was hanging out with other film nerds who had strong opinions both on The Departed and Infernal Affairs. I hadn't seen Infernal Affairs and, to be honest, I didn't really have a desire to see Infernal Affairs. I kind of wish I watched it then because I could ask questions that I have now. While looking for an image for this blog, I stumbled across an article labeled "5 reasons why Infernal Affairs is better than The Departed." Before I spiral down this hole, I'll let the cat out of the bag. I really liked Infernal Affairs; I did not love Infernal Affairs. But The Departed, at one point in my life, was almost life-changing. Now, you see an article like the one above, you can instantly scream out "Clickbait." And you'd be right. Absolutely it was a clickbait article. It was a clickbait article that went hard into its premise. By all intentions, Infernal Affairs was a superior film. Now, we all know that most of this comes down to taste. I shouldn't be so triggered by opinions. But also I'm human and that's something that I'm not going to completely avoid either.
Some things were good. For example, I couldn't deny that Infernal Affairs did the heavy lifting. One of the better things about both movies is that the plot is fantastic. If you are looking for an amazing crime drama, the structure of Infernal Affairs is absolutely priceless. But then came the main point that I was going to absolutely disagree with: the emotional resonance. Infernal Affairs is about an hour-forty. It's almost the perfect length for a movie. The Departed is about two-and-a-half. That's borderline a crime sometimes. But the reason that The Departed is two-and-a-half is that it is far more concerned with the emotional fallout of the insane things happening in this crime drama. From what I read, because Infernal Affairs is the first film in a trilogy --a trilogy that I now own-- a lot of the fallout is in the sequel. After all, while The Departed actually follows a lot of the beats quite closely, there is a minor-but-significant change in The Departed. In The Departed, the crooked cop gets his. In Infernal Affairs, while exposed to key people in his life, he actually gets away with it.
It's not like there isn't emotional resonance in this movie. The movie holds up. I mean, it really holds up. It's been long enough since I've seen The Departed that I had the joy of being able to watch this movie like it was new. I knew the general concept. There would be a cat-and-mouse game between two guys on opposite sides of the law. Both wouldn't be who they appear to be. But how they got there? No idea. In fact, I kind of hope that when I eventually get to watching The Departed again, there might be differences because I'm always a little bummed when an American remake does things a bit too closely. But this movie almost feels like a story of frustration and desperation compared to The Departed's savagery and hatred. There's something about Hong Kong cinema, especially with its attachment to something cool, that always sacrifices some of the vulnerability that we would see in American cinema.
That's a broad stroke to throw out there. American cinema often lacks vulnerability. But I'm looking at someone like Martin Scorsese touching the same material. Maybe that's what Scorsese brings to a table. I've been critical of Scorsese since he went full-on attack on Marvel films. He's allowed to have his own opinion, but he should also understand that his words have weight and everything he says about Marvel seems like a direct attack on another dissimilar filmmaker, Kevin Feige. So, if I'm vollying against Scorsese, maybe he might need more help with his plots. Maybe that's why I love Scorsese's take on Infernal Affairs. What Infernal Affairs does for him is to patch up the weaker (not weak, but weaker) part of storytelling. With The Departed, he had a faultless plot. But he's a master of visuals and characterization. His pacing makes this long movie feel far shorter than two-and-a-half. But as I mentioned, Infernal Affairs did the heavy lifting. It's the perfect scenario for Scorsese.
Let's stop talking about The Departed. It will be a miracle if I can find anything to say about the sequels to Infernal Affairs, let alone a remake like The Departed if I keep talking this way. I want to talk about Lau Kin Ming, the antagonist of the story. Infernal Affairs is fundamentally about the corrupting influences of surrounding. Ming is a bad dude surrounded by good guys. Yan is a good man having to do awful things. As much as I want to talk about Yan, it's right there on the screen. Yan lets his frustrations known. He's heroic for doing the right thing despite everything being taken away from him. For all his corruption, he still stays true to himself. But Ming, he's the one I'm wondering about. All these questions might be answered in Infernal Affairs 2, but I haven't seen it yet. I'm allowed to be asking these questions. There's this moment where Mind has crossed every line. He's morally evil from the beginning because he chooses to corrupt the objective good. He enjoys being paid fantastic amounts of money. But the thing about Ming is that he is engaged to a good woman. She is forthright and artistic. She has all of these qualities that seem like these two would not get along.
It's because of his engagement that we realizes that his entire life is a lie. With Yan, he can be himself when he's alone. Ming is never alone. At work, he's faking being a cop. At home, he's faking being an honorable man. Part of me wonders why he paired himself with such an upright individual, but there's a weird amount of sense to that. While he could have the freedom from the mask at home with someone equally corrupt, that's a liability. Ming is so effective at being evil because he's alone. But he's also being corrupted by his environment, particularly the situation at home. I get the idea that Ming genuinely loves his fiancee. When she discovers that he is a monster, there seems to be regret coming from two places. The first, and probably most significant, is that he got caught and lost this lady. Okay, but there has to be a psychological connection to the second point, that he was exposed to be scum. And in that revelation, is there moral change? I don't know. I love how the end keeps it ambiguous. Part of me never wants to see part two because I love that is where my avatar steps in a decides what the end means.
As much as I talked about The Departed, I dug Infernal Affairs. It's a really solid time and it's an absolutely brilliant movie. Yeah, I like the other one better. So what? Doesn't change the fact that I like a movie.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.