Infernal Affairs II (2003)

Genres - Crime  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller, Police Drama  |   Run Time - 119 min.  |   Countries - China , Hong Kong , Singapore   |   MPAA Rating - NR
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Review by Josh Ralske

Every successful Hong Kong genre film has to have sequels, and despite a dauntingly self-contained plotline (three of the four major characters are killed), Infernal Affairs is no exception. Since it's clear that financial, as opposed to artistic, interests dictated the need for a sequel, it's a pleasant surprise that Infernal Affairs II is ambitious and well-made. While the film must have been rushed into production, returning directors Andrew Lau and Alan Mak are obviously going for an epic feel. While the first film was an exemplary action thriller -- taut, suspenseful, superbly shot and acted -- the sequel is sprawling and distended. Andy Lau and Tony Leung are sorely missed. Shawn Yue and Edison Chen, respectively, are adequate, but few young actors could fill those superstars' shoes, and the filmmakers were wise to shift the emphasis to the older characters. Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang are superb character actors who are more than capable of carrying the film. But just as the younger Yan and Ming's eventual physical transformations into Lau and Leung are perplexing, Wong and Sam's transformations are psychologically unconvincing. Infernal Affairs II evokes The Godfather Part II with its conflation of gangland saga and political metaphor. The "allusions" to Coppola's film, including its underestimated, bookish heir apparent and a blatant rip of the classic "christening" sequence, are extremely obvious, and despite the political context (Infernal Affairs II takes place in the years leading up to the 1997 British handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese government), the film never really makes a cogent point about the historic events going on in the background. The emphasis on the handover seems a cynical ploy to lend the film import, and the end result is that Infernal Affairs II draws unfavorable comparison with not just one, but two earlier, superior films.