Infernal Affairs II
AKA: Infernal Affairs 2, Internal Affairs 2, Internal Affairs II, Infernal Affairs II: The Legend
Year of release: 2003
Directors: Andrew Lau, Alan Mak
Stars: Francis Ng, Anthony Wong, Carina Lau, Eric Tsang, Edison Chen, Shawn Yu, Chapman To, Hu Jun, Roy Cheung
Rated IIB for language and violence
Version reviewed: Mega Star VCD
In a prequel to the first film, Infernal Affairs II's story starts out in 1991, with Anthony Wong trying to establish a "working" relationship with a new Triad boss, played by Eric Tsang. Both Wong and Tsang have their own moles in each other's areas -- Edison Chen as a gangster inside the police force and Shawn Yu as a cop who keeps getting deeper undercover due to his relationship with another boss (played by Francis Ng). As you might expect, Infernal Affairs II concentrates on the relationships between the cops and gangsters, as the the undercovers struggle to toe the line between their respective societies.
Of course, this kind of stuff has been done many times over, both in HK and the US. But, every once in a while, a film comes along that puts a fresh spin on the proceedings, and Infernal Affairs II definitely does that. Like The Godfather II (this movie's obivous inspiration), this follow-up expands on the original story, but remains a cohesive unit on its' own. Nit-pickers will certainly find their share of flaws with this movie when placed against the first, but for those fans willing to relax a bit, Infernal Affairs II offers up some of the best crime cinema to come out of Hong Kong over the past several years.
Andrew Lau and Alan Mak's direction keeps things flowing and looking great. Thankfully, Lau seems to be dropping many of the gimmicky techniques which charactized his older work like Young and Dangerous. When you combine this with a smart script and some great acting, you have the makings of a great movie. Of course, the veterans like Anthony Wong and Francis Ng shine as always, but even Edison Chen puts in a good turn, even though frankly, his near-mute role really doesn't require him to do too much. Probably the most surprising performance comes from Eric Tsang, who manages to throw away his usual annoying (at least to most western viewers) mannerisms and actually create a likeable character. And Carina Lau does a wonderful job in changing what is usually a stock role (the Triad leader's girlfriend) and making it into something her own.
Infernal Affairs was one of the best movies of last year, and thankfully the followup follows in its' footsteps. It might not be the most original film ever, but sometimes you just need a solid drama that does its' job well through the performances of the actors, rather than a gimmicky script or special effects. The only real complaint I have with the movie is that I would have liked a bit more violence to liven up the proceedings. But seeing as how Infernal Affairs II manages to be one of the few sequels/prequels that doesn't suck, I'm willing to accept the absence of any "naughty bits".
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