DVD REVIEW: SUMMER OF FEARApril 30, 2003
DVD REVIEW: X-MEN – THE LEGEND OF WOLVERINEMay 7, 2003
STUDIO: Media Asia
RUNNING TIME: 99 Minutes
• Two versions of the film
• Cast and Crew commentary
• Five making-of documentaries
• Behind the Scenes featurette
• Trailers and sneak previews
• Music video
• Kelly Chen
Note: This disc is Region Zero, but unfortunately cannot be bought through Amazon. However, you can easily pick it up at some of the better Hong Kong DVD sites, such as DDDHouse and Poker Industries, both of which are safe to use and highly recommended.
Ah, the police thriller. paydirt in Hollywood for everyone from William Friedkin (The French Connection) to Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon), and usually guaranteed to get bums on seats. But where Hollywood often excels, Asia, and Hong Kong specifically, can usually emulate that pretty damn well, and sometimes eclipse it (notably John Woo’s classic Hard-Boiled). Andrew Lau and Alan Mak’s Infernal Affairs is one of those cases.
‘Okay, so which one of you has my copy of Naked Killer II?’
Infernal Affairs begins showing the early lives of two different men; Yan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai), who is thrown out of the Police training camp under false pretences so he can go undercover, and Lau (Andy Lau), a cop who was as a youngster part of an illegal crime syndicate. In present day, Yan is deeply involved in a drug ring run by Sam (Eric Tsang), acting as one of them while reporting to the only man who knows his identity, Superintendent Wong (the prolific Anthony Wong). Being undercover for ten years, Yan is frustrated at having to live a criminal’s life, being harassed by either cops or fellow drug runners, and is getting desperate. As is Wong, who is determined to bust Sam, and put him behind bars for good.
Meanwhile, Lau is now an Inspector in the HK police force, and is called up to help Wong in his investigations; specifically a bust, which he thinks, will help him get Sam once and for all. However, the bust doesn’t go to plan, as we find out Lau is not only a high-ranking Policeman, but also a spy and informant for the cartel. But will he discover the increasingly uncomfortable Yan?
Hong Kong, 1986. The last recorded moment when someone actually laughed at an Eddie Murphy movie.
It’s fair to say that Hong Kong movies in general are seen (unfairly, I might add) by many as just being high-octane actioners (surely underestimating the dramatic value of movies by directors such as Woo and Johnnie To), but if you want to present to someone an example of an antithesis to that, Infernal Affairs is one of the best. Scripted by Alan Mak and Felix Chong, Infernal Affairs is an incredibly well-executed thriller, the likes of which I haven’t seen in America in a long time, although ironically Warner Bros have bought the remake rights, which pretty much proves we’re still going the wrong way over here.
‘What do you mean you’re totally out of Crocodile II: Death Roll!?!’
It’s obvious from the first moments of the film that the emphasis has been placed directly on character development, as we are shown the differing fates of these two policemen. But as it kicks into present day, we begin to see what a really well written movie this is. The lives of Yan and Lau intertwine superbly, with Lau’s descent from who we think is a great and successful cop to a man whose life has seemingly been built on betrayal. The tension displayed in the script and direction is, to give a cliché, nailbiting, with the film keeping you on your toes as to whether Lau will discover Yan’s secret, and reveal him to the cartel.
‘…and this is for Attack of the Clones!’
The film is clearly about opposites, and the way people’s lives work out, with the film dominated by these two men. Yan, who has worked tirelessly in an incredibly dangerous environment to do the job that he has dedicated his life to, becoming desperate and disparaged, while Lau, essentially a spy, has risen through the ranks and is seen as living a perfect life. Along with this it presents Wong and Sam, both desperate to beat each other first in a mindgame which is best presented in a scene in the police station, where the two are placed opposite each other at a table, both unable to do anything but still psychologically battling to get the upper hand.
‘Oh shit! I thought Gojira had been deported!’
Of course, even the best script can fall apart with the wrong actors, so it’s fitting that such a great piece should get some absolutely outstanding talent. And fitting that it should star Tony Leung, who is fast becoming one of my favourite actors. Best known in the States for his roles in Hard-Boiled and Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love, Leung’s performance is, while not at all wanting to undervalue any of the other actors, possibly the centrepiece of the film. His vision of a man under enormous pressure in the face of danger is breathtaking, and incredibly emotional, as we see a man whose life is based on paranoia and fear, and Leung plays it incredibly. He also has amazing chemistry with the other actors, bringing across a sense of true loyalty with his ‘boss’, Sam, while on the other hand showing his frustration of the situation, yet pure trust to the excellent and omnipresent Anthony Wong. Andy Lau’s performance is also fantastic, and makes me wish I had seen more films of his.
The perfect church to bash your bishop in.
If anything, I wish there was a little more depth in the female performances in the film. While the amazingly beautiful Kelly Chen does a decent job as Yan’s psychiatrist, and Sammi Cheng as Lau’s wife, I feel there could have been deeper emphasis placed on their relationships. However, it’s a small price to pay for what overall is a fantastic thriller, expertly written and directed, thoughtful, tense, and a fascinating study of fate and character. Just brilliant.
9.1 out of 10
Roughly translated: ‘There’s coleslaw in the fridge, and G.W. Bailey’s head is in the oven.’
Shot in anamorphic 2:35.1, Infernal Affairs is also a treat visually, with some fantastic cinematography by Andrew Lau and Lai Yiu Fai. Thankfully, it is lovingly treated here with Media Asia giving the film an excellent transfer. While noise is evident here and there, and the quality of the film stock itself possibly not the best, the transfer is never anything less than great.
7.5 out of 10
The aftermath of driving under the influence of Colin Farrell.
While it still seems half and half in the US (with the UK being treated worse), it seems every Asian DVD I pick up now has the DTS logo on the cover, and thankfully, it’s here too. The movie doesn’t knock your socks off in the sound department, but the surrounds are used excellently, and the fine musical score comes through nice and clear. Bass is at a good level, and never distorts, and there’s never a time when you have to turn the sound up to hear dialogue, only to have your ears destroyed by sound effects or music. The Dolby 5.1 track is also great, although still occasionally shows off the nuances that it lacks, compared to DTS. However, it is excellent work all round.
7.5 out of 10
‘Now, tell me who was really the best Ninja Turtle.’
Infernal Affairs comes in a two-disc set, which is, to put it bluntly, stacked in the extras department. On disc one we have two different versions of the film, the theatrical version along with one with an alternative ending. You also get a cast and crew commentary, then over on disc two we have a behind-the-scenes featurette, five making-of documentaries, a music video, trailers for the film and previews for Cat and Mouse, Naked Weapon, and He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not. Unfortunately, none of the extra material is subtitled, so perhaps a Region 1 distributor can take the initiative and release it here. In any case, there’s quite a bit of material here.
I’d happily get SARS if I could marry this woman.
6.5 out of 10
Very atmospheric. The image of Leung and Lau on the rooftops below fits in very well, and I dig the Japanese writing between their heads a lot. Okay, so they’re floating, but it’s a lot better than some of the covers we see, and apt for a film like this.
7.0 out of 10
Overall: 8.5 out of 10