Not rated, but people die some pretty horrible deaths. Some of those deaths may require you to use your imagination, because there's a guy on fire in it, but the fire was done digitally. In 2003. It's fine. It just doesn't necessarily pack the same heat (pun intended) as a practical effect would. There's some language, but you are really on board for the violence more than anything else. Not rated.
DIRECTORS: Andrew Lau and Alan Mak
So they went all The Godfather Part II with this one, huh? Okay, I had that in the chamber since watching it. I don't know if I can follow through with a lot of deep commentary about this movie because I was resting all my argument on that. I have a feeling that there are just going to be a ton of Godfather comparisons with this blog. But that's okay. You know what would really help this blog entry? Research. Oh my goodness, doing a hint of research would do wonders for me right now. But between not having seen the third movie and the fact that it sets a precident for future blog entries, I'm going to just do my best and see if my sleep-deficient brain can compensate.
What research would I do? How did they make this movie a year apart. Part 3, same deal. 2002, 2003, 2004 are the years for the Infernal Affairs trilogy and I can't really understand it. Maybe they got approval to make them all at the same time? It has to be that. It had to be one of those James Cameron deals where they presented a proof of concept and got pre-approved to make all the movies at the same time. I mean, sure, the first film is the one that carries the weight of having a clever conceit behind it. But Infernal Affairs II isn't a joke by any stretch of the imagination. It's actually got another really complicated plot. It has a plot so complicated that I had to Wikipedia the plot a few times. Crime stories tend to get a little confusing sometimes, especially when you have different cast members playing the same roles. It's an odd movie. I know that I threw The Godfather as the example for Infernal Affairs II, but part of that comes from the notion of being a prequel. But prequels tend to spell out how the life of the protagonists or antagonists before the important story starts. Yeah, this is the story of moles still. But they almost carry the brunt of the B-story in this movie. Yeah, I know what it was like rising up the ranks of both the police force and a crime syndicate. But is that the main plot? Oh, man no. If anything, this is the story of Wong and Sam.
It's a different story than I would have gathered from the first movie,which is probably what makes the film so compelling. My vibe from the first movie is that Wong was so good at his job that he was comfortable being personable with someone like Sam. Instead, we find out that he's quasi-sorta-corrupt? Okay, he's a corrupt cop. Why am I dancing around this? I have the opportunity to spell it out right here. He's a cop that takes shortcuts and has a skewed morality, but does so in the name of justice. I guess the movie comes down on the side of Wong. Everything about these Infernal Affairs movies seems to be about how the pursuit of justice is one that corrupts, but that corruption is necessary. Even when it comes to Sam, it's got an opinion on that. Sam starts this movie not as a monster. He's a small time informant who enjoys the benefit of his station. Yeah, he's still morally in the wrong. He's never a good guy in this movie. But Infernal Affairs II inverts the role of the meal in this movie. The first Infernal Affairs has Sam eating a meal out of spite. (For some reason, I thought that police just gave suspects rad, multi-course dishes during interrogation in Hong Kong. Now, I'm only mostly sure that they do not.)
Sam's meal is very telling in this one to say how much this story has spiraled out of control. Sam and Wong have a relationship of cop to informant in this one. There's something ironic about Sam acting as an informant, considering that he's the impetus of the whole undercover mole thing. However, that first scene with Sam eating with Wong is a lovely bit of detail quickly establishing the civility of officer / criminal. In the first meal, when Sam disrespects Wong during that meal, I felt it was a way to make Sam unlikable quickly. But now that we realize that there's some real bad blood between the two of them and that Wong is desperate to undo the past, that first meal takes a deeper meaning. But if I did have to be critical, it's weird that so much hate goes Wong's way. Wong does have a weight on his shoulders. He is responsible for a crime lord's death. I mean, from what I understood, it wasn' t he who pulled the trigger but Lau, the big bad from the first movie. It's an odd move, considering that the only reason that Lau was in the police force was to rise to the ranks so he could be an infallible mole on the inside. But, whatever. It's a movie.
But Wong carries the weight of this crime. He genuinely views himself to be this corrupt figurehead throughout the film. But the film even verbalizes its themes by continually exonerating him from this assassination. There's even a line about the Brits agreeing to the notion that anything that would lower crime approach. But it is odd that so many people hate Wong. Maybe I kind of missed something. I can tell you that I missed why Sam is so cool with being killed, I'll tell you that for free. I mean, I can kind of bend my brain to it. Sam enters the final act of the movie wanting to take Hau down. (Hau makes a great villain with a great comeuppance, so I'll say that right here.) Here's where I start getting confused. Sam and Hau sit down and negociate. Hau, as per his characters, seems to hold all the cards. A hit squad is holding Sam's new family hostage. But then Sam throws the Reverse Uno card and says that he has Hau's family hostage as well. It's great. Great moment. Sam frees his family with his own hit squad. But it's in that moment, that Sam demands that Hau kill him.
Now, my brain went in a specific direction. Is this a metaphorical killing? After all, Sam's personality is based on the notion of survival and growth. The idea that he asks Hau to kill him as a means to maintain the status quo doesn't make a ton of sense. It's when Wong shows up and he kills Hau to save Sam's life that this is all thrown for a tizzy. Sam seems to get really angry with Wong. He says that he wanted to die in that moment. I really want this moment to work because the movie is pretty good. But I don't know when Sam went suicidal. It seems so against his character, especially in the original movie. That is a dude who gonedone loves his life. What is the turn that happened in that movie that made Sam suicidal? Maybe this is where my criticism comes down on the movie. Sam doesn't make a lick of sense to me in this as a prequel. That suicidal bit was a means to create a rift between Wong and Sam, but I don't know if it really works.
But...and here's what I promised, it works really well as The Godfather Part II. I know, I can't stop comparing Hong Kong films to American films. The Infernal Affairs movies could almost be anthology films because this movie almost doesn't need to be tied to the first film. Instead, what makes Infernal Affairs II oddly really satisfying is that humanity that criminals are given in this movie. The first film, as much as I adored it, was almost straight plot: cops v. robbers. Okay. Great. But this is the nuance of the world of Hong Kong crime. It's the Triads at family get togethers. Yeah, it isn't the center of the piece. But it is something that is prevalent throughout. There are just these moments of humanity. The cool is stripped away from crime and it becomes about survival and the abandonment of familial expectations. Criminals, for all of the awful things that happen in this movie, are somehow human. There's almost a demonization to Wong, which is reflected in the notion that he will do anything to shut down organized crime. It's gorgeous. Is it as effective as The Godfather Part II? Probably not, but it is certainly strong.
Part III has to be a sequel, right? I can't imagine it not being a sequel. But I will say, I didn't know how there were going to be three movies made out of a central premise. But here I am, pleased to say that Infernal Affairs II was a solid film on its own. It didn't seem to tread over the same points over again, yet still felt connected to ideas introduced earlier. It's a solid, if not a bit confusing movie that I'm glad I caught.
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.