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Infernal Affairs 2 : Prequel (HK 2003)

Director : Andrew Lau, Alan Mak
Producer : Andrew Lau
Screenplay : Alan Mak, Felix Chong
Cast : Anthong Wong, Eric Tsang, Carina Lau, Francis Ng,
Edison Chen, Shawn Yue, Hu Jun

1991. Yan and Ming are beginning their careers in the police force. Yan is a policeman with secret links to the triad underworld, while Ming is a young triad who is actually an undercover policeman. Police Inspector Wong and Sam – who is an upcoming triad – find a common enemy in new crime boss Hau. Set during the years when political rule of Hong Kong is shifting from Britain to China, all four of these men find that there are many things which will be changing forever.

by Martin Cleary

I loved the original Infernal Affairs. It was one of those real ‘sit up and pay attention’ films that restored my faith in Hong Kong cinema after a period of relatively poor output. Sometimes the memory of a really good film can be tarnished by seeing a mediocre sequel, and so it was with a certain amount of caution that I approached this sequel. I mean, a sequel couldn’t be as good as the original Infernal Affairs, could it? The answer – I was pleased to find – was that if Infernal Affairs 2 is not QUITE as good as the original, then it’s only by a small margin. This is one of those sequels that makes you take out the original and watch them both again back to back. It’s pretty chuffin’ good.

The film opens with an impressive monologue from Anthony Wong as Inspector Wong. As the film is a prequel, both Wong and Sam have been resurrected to show us just what they were like years earlier, just how they became the men we know from the first film. Most of my doubts as to the quality of the sequel were pretty much gone at this point. It’s a quiet opening to the film, but one of those openings where you just know that you’re in for a good time. After this the film just launches into it’s tale of the two young men Yan and Ming and their first experiences as a Policeman and a ‘trainee’ Triad respectively. Where the first film used these two characters in a brilliant cat and mouse game and each of them served as polar opposites to each other, Infernal Affairs 2 places them more into the background and brings Anthony Wong’s Inspector Wong and Eric Tsang’s Sam to the front. Which is reason enough to watch this film.

Eric Tsang really proved himself to be a powerful and accomplished actor in the first Infernal Affairs film. As an actor that I Knew better for his ‘buffoonish’ comedy roles, his portrayal of Sam was quite chilling. Anthony Wong on the other hand has been giving strong performances for years, but in Infernal Affairs they made their supporting roles just as important and complex as Andy Lau and Tony Leungs’ star turns. In Infernal Affairs 2, lets just say that they both get even better.This time round Edison Chen and Shawn Yue get more time to show us their youthful versions of Yan and Ming. They’re pretty good too, managing to stick closely to the psychological make-up of the characters (displayed in their later years through the first film) but also managing to put across the feeling of a kind of innocence that is being ripped away. They’re not the strongest performances ever, but it’s to their credit that they stand aside the more accomplished actors without putting themselves to shame. In acting terms, the last great addition to the mix is Francis Ng, as Hau – the new head of the Ngai triad family. Ng’s Hau is a cleancut business-type gangster who looks like he’d be more comfortable in a boardroom, but who knows when and how to get his hands dirty. He’s a serious cold fish. And great to watch.

As I’ve said, the acting in the film is great. The plot too is especially strong and it’s not just a retread from the first film. The cat and mouse structure of the first film is replaced by a plot which builds on Hau’s growth and effect as a new powerful mob boss – the question becomes who will he get next or will they be able to reach him. The film’s time-scale is also interesting, set while Hong Kong was gearing up for it’s hand-over from the British to the Chinese government, the themes of ‘old replacing the new’ and ‘unavoidable change’ run deeply.

The cinematography and soundtrack for the film are of the same high (HIGH) standard as the first. The Infernal Affairs films are as technically brilliant as anything that Hong Kong has ever produced – and HK has obviously created some beauties! Although there are many shots which must have been produced through painstaking work, there’s a real powerhouse effect to them. Scenes in which relatively little seems to happen are filmed as epically as any of the action scenes, adding a real rush to the film.

If, like me, you enjoyed the first Infernal Affairs, then I highly recommend this sequel. I can’t quite decide if it equals the first film – probably not quite – but in some respects it threatens to improve on it. The best sequels manage to compliment and even enhance the original film, and Infernal Affairs 2 definitely manages to do this!

Plot : 4/5
Acting : 4/5
Entertainment : 4/5
Overall : 4/5

Notable Scenes
- The opening monologue
- Hau takes the reins
- The discovery of a police mole
- Sam takes control of his future using a mobile phone

Buy this movie at YesAsia – Infernal Affairs II

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