Not rated, but there's a lot of death with a lot of blood. One guy gets cracked in the face with an ashtray. These are just things that happen in the world of organized crime. You know all that organized crime you do? It involves blood. It's not like the film is gory, but it is also unapologetic when it comes to blood. I suppose there is language too. It would be weird if there wasn't language. Still, not rated.
DIRECTORS: Andrew Lau and Alan Mak
They were going to run out of steam eventually, right? How did they make so many movies that were so plot heavy back-to-back-to-back? These were a year apart. Now, I shoudl just Wikipedia this answer because I'm sure that I'm not the only person who has these questions. Maybe they had all three written ahead of time and they filmed them at the same time? It's possible. It's not like it is unheard of. But the one thing about the Infernal Affairs movies is that they live or die on the plot twist. Plot twists, guys, are very hard to pull off.
Infernal Affairs III is the one that dropped the ball. The first Infernal Affairs movie is genius. It's about the cat-and-mouse of it all. The stakes get so high and the movie is unafraid to make beloved characters corpses on a moment's notice. It's why The Departed exists. A story that good has to be stolen by Americans to make it watchable by U.S. audiences. (What? An American should be asked to watch a movie that wasn't starring White people AND the movie has subtitles? For shame!) But there is a notion that some movies shouldn't be sequelized. Now, I don't want to go too deep into this comparison because I'm one of the five people who actually really likes The Godfather Part III. But I'm not the first person to make the comparison from the Infernal Affairs trilogy to The Godfather trilogy. Both Infernal Affairs and The Godfather are movies that shouldn't actually need sequels. Everything needed for the story is told in the first one. Similarly, these are movies that live in worlds so spelled out that there shouldn't be a scenario where these people go through these issues again. (Again, we can look at Die Hard as franchises that push elements of plausibility beyond the pale.) But both The Godfather and Infernal Affairs find valid stories in the prequel / sequel hybrid. With The Godfather, we get the rise of the Corleone Family syndicate and the betrayal of Fredo while Infernal Affairs focuses on how Sam and Wong became frenemies while looking closer at the structures of the triads. Cool.
But Infernal Affairs III? At this point in the Infernal Affairs storyline, so much has been wrapped up. Lau comes out the victor of the mole hunt. Sure, he loses his wife and now he has to survive in the world of a police force divorced from a life of crime. But like Neo flying out of a phone booth at the end of the first Matrix film, our brains can and should fill in the gaps. I don't need to see how hard the life of a criminal faking morality should look like. Or, maybe I do. It's just that I don't need a complicated storyline to remind me that the first two movies are complex. Infernal Affairs III is so burdened by the shadow of its predecessors that the movie does itself a disservice and tortures the story that should be simple. Sometimes, a movie doesn't need to be complex. The complexity from the first story is something organic. Instead of treating Infernal Affairs as something with a twist, I consider it more daring. But that standard is impossible to maintain. I mean, look at the work of M. Night Shyamalan as examples for why depending on the perfect dismount only hurts the overall story.
The thing is, Infernal Affairs III only has a complex story because the way that the story is told is cryptic and it breaks the rules of its universe. The first thing is easy to break down. Like with Infernal Affairs II, the story is told out of chronological order. It makes sense with Infernal Affairs II. The parallel structure of the past and the present storylines compliment each other and there's a reason for those breaks. But Infernal Affairs III seems to be covering up for a lack of cohesive storytelling. Those breaks in the action seem random. The decision is almost stating, "We've been in this time period too long. Let's see what's happening in a different time period." There's no throughline and the film becomes complex for the sake of being complex. But the worse crime comes from the need to have a twist. The rules of Infernal Affairs comes from the hard-boiled noir storytelling. While the world of Infernal Affairs is quasi-sorta based on reality, there's a hard-edge to everything. It's a bleak world with grey morality coloring everything. But if you tried to figure out what the ending of the films would be, you'd have to go by the rules that everyone is expendable and that you can trust everything that you see.
Instead, the movie ends with Lau doing something that you can only really see in movies. For some reason, probably tied to his "Telltale Heart" induced guilt, he becomes the character who died in the previous movies. Yeah, to really try to get a sense of a trilogy, Infernal Affairs keeps bringing back a character who died in the first movie. This character sometimes is the original character, but sometimes he's just a hallucination on the part of Lau's. By the end of the movie, Lau has a full-on mental breakdown and is convinced that he is Chan, once again trying to arrest Lau. For a different movie, that might have worked. But this is the world of Infernal Affairs. The notion of hallucinations and false information isn't part of this world. Everything we see is a clue. Instead, Infernal Affairs III kind of just lies to its audience for the sake of having the "cool" ending. I give so much credit to the people behind Infernal Affairs for being so willing to upset the status quo. But Infernal Affairs III does so much to maintain that expectation that they become the status quo. The real rebellion to make an Infernal Affairs III would to actually make a quiet film about dealing with shame and sin. That's a movie. That's a movie that isn't part of the Infernal Affairs trilogy, with its dependence on Hong Kong gunplay. But it is a story that could be told.
The thing that bothers me is the lie. At one point, Infernal Affairs III telegraphs that Lau is losing his sense of self. It stresses that Lau's reflection comes back as Chan's. Okay. I'm using the example of Lau's dual personalities as what's wrong with the movie, but I actually have a bigger problem with Wing. (I think it's Wing. I've watched so many movies in the past three weeks that names start fading.) The goal of the movie is misdirect. Wing is the hero of the story along with Chen. But the data we get at the beginning of the movie is that Wing and Chen are the bad guys of the piece. Wing comes across as increasingly antagonistic because the movie wants you to think that he's the inside man that Lau is searching for. In fact, the movie straight up tells us that there are five moles within the Hong Kong Police Department and the only one that we have any degree of confirmation on is Wing. Wing makes really odd decisions if he wasn't the mole within the department. Similarly, Chan is straight up said to be Sam's partner-in-crime. But both of these characters are revealed to be on the side of angels, which makes me question why they went so far out of their way to point the fingers at themselves. In the world of Infernal Affairs, Lau has every right to suspect these two people because they aren't being normal in the least. There's a difference between suspect and straight up lying and that's the problem with Infernal Affairs III.
Why is the third movie in a trilogy so hard to nail? I do believe we do have good third movies. I am even kind of sure we have great third movies. (We should have ended on Last Crusade. The word "Last" is right there!) I don't expect third movies to be the best, like some people do. But Infernal Affairs III fails at almost everything it tries to do. Sometimes, a movie just needs to be a movie. Maybe not every sequel well received needs to be a trilogy.
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.