New York Asian Film Festival 2012

Infernal Affairs 1 & 2

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Infernal Affairs 1 & 2
Mou gaan dou 1 & 2 | Andrew Lau, 2002/2003
Hong Kong | 101/119 minutes

10th Anniversary screening! Actor Will Yun Lee in person for panel with creators of video game Sleeping Dogs.

Note: Infernal Affairs screens at 6:00pm. Infernal Affairs 2 screens at 8:40pm.

Ten years ago, Infernal Affairs appeared on the scene and rocked the Hong Kong box office, won 23 film awards, and ultimately got remade by Martin Scorsese as The Departed, which won him his first Best Director Oscar (as well as Oscars for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture). But what a lot of people don’t know is that the sequel, Infernal Affairs 2, is even better than the first movie, and taking the two together is an intense cinematic experience equivalent to watching The Godfather and The Godfather Part II back-to-back.

Infernal Affairs is the ultimate “why didn’t I think of that” high concept: a cop goes undercover as a gangster while, simultaneously, a gangster infiltrates the police force, pretending to be a cop. These two sleeper agents live underground for years before a series of mistakes clues in all the wrong people as to what’s going on and each mole is ordered to root out the problem, which in both cases happens to be themselves. It’s the Philip K. Dick movie that Michael Mann always wanted to direct, starring Tony Leung (In the Mood for Love) as the undercover cop, and pop star Andy Lau (A Simple Life) as the over-achieving gangster who’s infiltrated the police. Chris Doyle, Wong Kar-wai’s longtime cameraman and the cinematographer on Zhang Yimou’s Hero, consulted on the visuals, and the film is saturated with toxic chromium hues that turn its elaborate set pieces into individual slices of hell.

But its prequel, Infernal Affairs 2, ups the stakes spectacularly. Edison Chen plays the young Andy Lau and Shawn Yue plays a young Tony Leung, but the movie belong to their dueling father figures: Eric Tsang as the despotic triad mastermind, and Anthony Wong as the kind, patient cop who is Tony Leung’s handler. IA2 turns the first film upside down, revealing that the heroes of IA1 are amoral villains who’ll do anything for a promotion, and that the villains are decent men trying to make the best of intolerable situations. The intense Francis Ng joins the cast as a straight-laced son who, reluctantly, takes over the triad after his father is killed, and Carina Lau plays Eric Tsang’s ambitious wife. A hot-blooded throwback to the big, actor-intensive cop dramas of the 1970’s, Infernal Affairs 1 & 2 writes its story in burning blood, on paper made of ice. It’s a one-two punch of cinematic greatness.

Series: New York Asian Film Festival 2012

Venue: Walter Reade Theater

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