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Thought the first one was one of the finest Cop thrillers in recent
years and the follow up is equally brilliant - for obvious reasons its
a prequel set in 3 time periods leading up to the events in the first
movie. This time round Ming(Edison Chen - Andy Lau last time) and
Yan(Shawne Yau - Tony Leung last time) are more peripheral characters -
the main action concentrates on Inspector Wong(Anthony Wong) and his
struggles against the Triads. The leader of the major gang has been
murdered and his son Hau(Francis Ng) has taken over - he is a more
ruthless boss and intends to take over all the territory that other
leaders currently control. These include Sam(Eric Tsang) and its
interesting how close Wong and Sam are before the events that end so
tragically later - Wong would rather have Sam running things and it
appears that Wong has conspired with Sam's woman Mary(Carina Lau) to
have Hau's Father killed - only to see the son become worse than the
Father. To complicate matters Yan is Hau's half brother who as a cop is
willing to infiltrate Hau's gang but whose loyalty is put under
pressure when he realises that Wong(who he is working for) had a hand
in his Fathers murder.Meanwhile Sam is grooming Ming to become his mole
in the HK Police(although Ming's attraction for Mary does complicate
How this all pans out and leads to the events in the first film I shall leave but its an excellent film - a little complicated at times as you have to work out all the dynamics buts worth the effort - as mentioned the most poignant part is the relationship between Wong and Sam - they may be on opposite sides but have a closeness that will prove to be the central point of the story later.
There is a fantastic scene where Hau contrives to have himself held in Police custody whilst the other gang bosses are murdered and the way the film cuts between his interview(where he reveals how he knows who killed his Father) and the other bosses being wiped out is worthy of comparison with Coppola's Godfather - the series has that whole epic feel and the way it culminates with the handover of power to the Chinese in 1997 with new bosses on both sides of the conflict coming to power is very well done.
For once a sequel that lives up to the original........I shall be interested to see if Scorcese's remake can come close.
Sequels are often a bad idea. If a second story is integral to our understanding of the first, it would have been included within it. Often, sequels seem like a cheap way to extract more life out of popular characters, by forcing the through fresh adventures which they either do not fit without contrivance, or which merely copy their previous escapades. 'Internal Affairs 2', however, is an exception. The first movie in this series was a complex thriller that was presented as the end game in a long battle between the Hong Kong police and criminal gangs; but the back story was only hinted at. This movie, actually a prequel, tells tells that story in such a way that it stands completely alone, and remains interesting although the audience already knows the ultimate ending; indeed, is arguably even more interesting because we know where the tale must end. One reason it works is because the film has different ambitions to its predecessor: that was a straightforward thriller of the highest order, whereas this film (no less good) is more character driven, and takes a wider perspective on Hong Kong society in general. Although the first movie was compared by some to Michael Mann's 'Heat', in fact it is this film that better bears the comparison as a tale of adversaries on opposite sides of the law, and it stands up to that comparison well: the subtle behaviours of the heroes and villains alike more interesting than the macho posturings of the gangsters and cops depicted in American movies. The only disappointment is the absence of Tony Leung from the original cast; but it's rare that two movies in a series are as complementary, and as good, as these two.
What a tangled web a studio can weave when they realize they desperately need to make some money off of a sequel to a film that didn't need one. That's not to say that this is bad, but it would strike me as an ordinary film even if I hadn't seen the extraordinary film that came before. This "sequel," despite the number, is actually a prequel, but it doesn't so much fill in the blanks as muddy up the waters; it's often confusing, it's not always clear if some of the new backstory really squares with the depictions we saw in the first one, and some of the more glaring questions are left unanswered (possibly for film number three). The young replacements the mole characters, previously played by Tony Leung and Andy Lau, are certainly not up to the task. Thankfully, the movie works because Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang reprise their roles as the respective cop and mob boss, and it is quite interesting to learn about a relationship between them that, from what I recall, was far from obvious before. I certainly wouldn't recommend watching this before the first one, despite the chronology, but I imagine it is worth satisfying the likely thirst for more that you will most likely have after watching the previous film.
Set before events in Wu Jian Dao, the murder of the head of the Ngai
family see his son, Hau, stepping up immediately upsetting the power
balance in the region. Small time boss Sam has a close relationship
with officer SP Wong both of whom wish to see the Ngai family removed
from the scene. Meanwhile, triad Lau Kin Ming is sent to infiltrate the
police force and gradually work his way up with help from Sam while
Wong sanctions Chen Wing Yan (the half brother of the Hgai family) to
infiltrate the triads and work his way up to Hau.
I approached this film wondering what it would do how would it manage to be interesting given that we already know (from part 1) how it goes. I also expected it to be roughly the same as the first film in terms of being an enjoyable thriller however this was not the case and it was hard to get into the film for what it was. The story is not really about Yan and Ming so much as it is about the leading figures behind them this film belongs to Sam, Wong and Hau and this was a bit of a surprise but one I was able to get over quickly and settle into a pretty interesting story where we see the shift of power in the HK crime families unsurprisingly framed by the shift of political power from Britain to China. However interesting it is the film lacks in several areas. Firstly the praise for the first film seems to have got to the makers' heads and part 2 is a much more overblown affair that injects every scene with a sense of overblown drama that it tries to create as oppose to earn. This is a little tiring as it seems to be forcing us to accept the film as some sort of epic where it would have been much more effective to underplay the story and let it stand on its own. Making this more annoying is the fact that the script doesn't really help the audience much and only the sharpest viewer will make it through the first 20 minutes without struggling to get hold of the story and work out who everybody is.
In stark contrast to the tight thriller of part 1, this film is a much bigger story and, as such, occasionally struggled to keep me emotionally involved. Sure, the politics of crime were interesting and produced plenty of good stuff but only occasionally did I get behind the characters and struggle to know who to support like I had in part 1 in fact the film could have easily lost Yan and Ming without losing much story. However it is still worth seeing as it does manage as a bit of a twisty crime story (but not a thriller) but even as this it doesn't really stand out as being that great. The loss of the great performances from Lau and Leung is a massive hole that neither Chen or Yue ever get close to filling the fact that the material gives them no help either is not their fault. As before, Wong and Tsang are both good and they benefit from being the focus of the prequel. Ng is a good addition as Hau and he is suitably professional, cold and has a powerful presence suiting his character it also helps that he was very easy on the eye too! As with the prequel, the female parts are pretty thin and the potential to use Lau's Mary better is not taken.
Overall this is not a bad film by any means; in fact it is an OK story of crime between the ruling families (as shown by a few individuals) however the film hurts itself by trying to force itself into the shape of a 'sprawling crime epic' when nothing in the material actually justifies this aim. The poor use of Yan and Ming is a problem that is only slightly helped by the increased focus on Sam and SP Wong. An OK film but not a scratch on the original and not even necessary viewing to enjoy that better film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Spoilers Warning !!!
Infernal Affair created a box office miracle in Hong Kong last year not because it is a particularly brilliant film, but because of the lame comparisons that went on before. Still, I.A. is a solid piece of work which, coupled with the hype that has been building up, becomes quite an act to follow. For I.A. 2 the scriptwriters' task is to strike a good balance of giving a life of its own and yet preserving an adequate link with the first one. The challenge is compounded by the fact that this is a prequel, dictating that the audience would know that the people they've seen before are not going to die here, a rather irritating handicap for a crime story.
The scriptwriters met this challenge with a combination of strategies. First, borrow the main plot of underworld feud from The Godfather. Next, add a story line of an entrancing woman (and cast an entrancing actress for the role). Then, package the story into an ensemble type of performance arena where the audience can enjoy watching a good number of different roles, major as well as minor. Finally, move the story towards a monumental backdrop, the return of sovereignty of Hong Kong in 1997. The result: an immensely watchable movie and a deserving prequel to the first Infernal Affair.
While I.A. 2 does not pretend to be a `Godfather', the movie does earn our respect, right from the opening shots, by demonstrating the meticulous efforts put into its production. Anthony Wong seems to be delivering a monologue, but is actually talking with Eric Tsang in a spartanly furnished room. Facing Wong, on the far wall, hangs a clock. As Wong's is shot from various angles, the tic-toc sound of the clock moves around the cinema, left, right, front and back, in relation to the angle of the shot. This is the technical aspect. This opening dialogue is also of paramount importance as it underpins the main theme of this prequel. What Wong says here explains his dark side not seen in I.A. 1, in a startling revelation later. In the brief synopsis that follows, I'll continue to use the performers' names instead of the characters', for simplicity.
The story happens in three time slots, 1991, 1995 and 1997 (aptly correlated with the size of the mobile phones seen in the movie). Young Edison Chan's assassination of an underworld boss makes a blood bath seem unavoidable, in sparkling a feud among four lieutenants. However, thing are swiftly brought under control at the emergence of the victim's son Francis Ng, who, skilfully manipulating the four, put them in their place again. There is actually a fifth, Eric Tsang who has been most loyal to the dead boss. The irony is that the killing has been ordered secretly by his woman, Carina Lau, who thinks that Tsang should really be the man at the top. On the law enforcers' side, Anthony Wong sets up Shawn Yu (Tong Leung in I.A. 1) as a mole in Ng's gang, knowing that Yu is actually Ng's half-brother but trusting his intention to be a `good man'. At the same time, Chan (Andy Lau in I.A. 1) joins the police force as the gangster's undercover, as we have already seen in I.A. 1.
Fast forward 4 years, we see Ng, ready to clean up his house by getting rid of `the four', taking Tsang into his confidence. A startling revelation is now made to the audience: while Lau ordered the assassination 4 years ago, she had a corroborator: inspector Wong. Ng has actually found out about this and vows to revenge his beloved father's death on both Lau and Tsang, even though he knows that the latter was really innocent. On the pretext of sending Tsang to Thailand to set up some cocaine business, Ng intends to send him to meet his death. Simultaneously, by a brilliant double play, he eliminates `the four' and at the same time reveals to the police evidence of Wong's conspiracy in killing his father. We then see Tsang in a tight spot in Thailand but are not shown what eventually happens. In Hong Kong, Chan, who has all this time been a secret admirer of Lau, shields her from Ng's revenge (Ng does not know that Chan is the actual killer of his father). But when he fails to win her heart, Chan betrays Lau, sending her to her death in the hands of Ng's gunmen.
In 1997, approaching Hong Kong's historical moment, Wong is pardoned by the police as they need capable men like him to continue combating the underworld. He goes to Thailand to see Tsang whom we find had not been killed after all. In this prequel they are friends despite being in opposite camps, and have a common enemy in Ng. Back in Hong Kong, they continue to try to spin web around Ng, but find that all they have been able to lay their hands on will only put him behind bars for a few years, which is clearly not enough for Tsang for avenging his woman. Without going into details, it suffices to say that Tsang manages a plot that corners Ng, getting him eventually killed by the police.
In this brief synopsis, I have left out a lot of details as well as some characters such as To Man-chat, who plays a less comic role here than in I.A. 1 and Wu Jun, mainland Chinese star playing Wong's partner and buddy. I want to mention also Roy Cheung (one of the five gunmen in Johnny To's masterpiece `The Mission' (1999)) who, without a single line here, has such a screen presence that leaves quite an impression.
I mentioned at the beginning that the main challenge of this movie is to strike a balance between having its own life and yet maintaining a link with I.A. 1. Let's look at each of these two aspects.
The new life is in the two new characters who could easily have been in a different story. The beauty is that they can be killed off (and they both ended up exactly that way), and the audience would expect some deaths in a crime yarn. Ng's story line, as mentioned, is primarily from Godfather. Ng, well known for his explosive screen image, is a completely different man here, composed, calculating, and it does not take a film critic or movie reviewer to see the resemblance to Michael Corleone. His story fuels the main plot of I.A. 2, giving it a life independent from the first one. Complementing this independence is Carina Lau, who adds glamour as well as femininity to enrich the movie's content. The scantily depicted but genuinely felt love between the visually most unlikely pair of Lau and Tsang is actually quite moving.
As to the link with the first one, the 4 key characters Wong, Tsang, Chan (young Andy Lau) and Yu (young Tony Leung) have received varying treatments. Unlike before (or afterwards, if that make more sense to your temporal awareness), Wong and Tsang are friends here. I think this arrangement is quite deliberate for the obvious reason that watching them in the same old conflict as in I.A. 1 wouldn't exactly be a thrill to the audience. Tsang plays a much more passive and subdued role throughout most of the movie. It isn't until after Lau has been killed by Ng that he fires up. Wong, on the other hand, is much more controversial displaying a dark side of his character, which the movie tries to explain in his opening dialogue about witnessing on his first beat the violent death of his superior under the hands of a mobster. The situation reminds me of the old Hollywood westerns, in which the invariable commandment was `thou shalt not take the law into thy own hands' no matter how evil the criminal is. Wong, gnawed by the torturing frustration from seeing the killer freed after just a few years, does take the law into his own hands. Of the two young ones, Edison Chan has considerably more to do in depicting the formation of Andy Lau's character. Chan has displayed a maturing self-assurance, particularly in that charming, almost child-like smile behind which hides a chilling soul. Shawn Yu on the other hand does not leave that much of an impression.
One more point and I'm done. The makers of the movie spared no pain in employing a staggering variety of background music. Choral chants are used lavishly, as are solo piano and guitar. Pulsating strings and urgent percussions are employed as usual in building up climaxes. Even the harmonic comes into play, and this one actually on screen at the conclusion of the extermination of `the four'. If I seem to make it sound as though background music has been over used, this is not my intention. Rather, they are employed skilfully and tastefully, contributing considerably to the success of the movie.
A loose prequel to 2002's hit Infernal Affairs, this goes back to the
1980s and '90s when the Hong Kong police force and the city's ruling
triad sent undercover agents into each other's organisations.
Tony Leung and Andy Lau are missed as the supermoles (played here by young look-alikes) but directors Andrew Lau and Alan Mak have something smart up their sleeves, shifting the emphasis of the story onto the able shoulders of the pair's world-weary veteran superiors. Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang are excellent as the morally compromised cop and likable but capable capo, ageing friends who understand they stand just over the line from each other.
A knowledge of the first film helps navigate the labyrinthine plots of the dizzying opening act but once it finds its pace, it's a slick, slow-burning thriller all the way marred only by the directors' occasional lapse into Godfather pretensions while the backdrop of 1997's hand-over of Hong Kong is effective shorthand for the huge changes taking place within the forces of both law and disorder.
This film is a good example for the fact that good and fertile story is
the key of film making. "Infernal Affair II" shows how to inherit an
original story and expend its scope in a reasonable, even creative way.
It is a very good experience watching this film, the actors are good,
the directing is skilled and the sequences are intensive, and the
climax is stunning, but meanwhile, it always makes you have some ideas
connecting to the Godfather series. No matter its epic scale and clues
of scenes, you can feel their respect to(or, borrowing from?) the
Coppola's legendary film(maybe only the first two...) that's a good
try, but not an original one.
a very important work of Hong Kong Cinema in the 90s
Worth watching, especially with the original "Infernal Affairs" 7/10
After phenomenal success of "Wu Jian Dao (2002)" (or IA for short), a lot
hypes generated around when next two movies in the series
announced. I tend to ignore them and do not expect anything about IA2.
Before I got into the cinema, "how would the screenwriters present this
time,and how would they connect the characters between them?". After the
movie, I would say I am not disappointed.
Like IA, this is also a drama about clashes of characters, not in the form of breath-taking kung fu / wire-work actions we find in traditional Hong Kong cop movie, but starting from their own desire, intentions, hate and positions. If you are looking for a non-stop action flick, I am afraid IA2 would not fulfill you.
But unlike last year's blockbuster, the main theme of IA2 is about the rise and fall of a great gangster family Ngai, other than about the police. The difficult part in making a prequel lies in the fact that as audiences all know too well the new appearences would drop-out one way or the other and the characters from IA must be okay. So the story does not waste efforts in describing most of the adventures, rather, concentrate on how these events shapes things to come. It is sure to the scriptwrites' credits and this alone casts a strong contrast to prequel movies like "Star Wars: Attack of the Clones" (2002).
Moreover, it is not surprising for many audiences relating this with similar movies like "The Godfather". I am not comparing them here, but rather I would point out that the actor Francis Ng, who plays the new gangster head of Nagi family, runs the show. He plays a young, well-educated, cool,calculating, witted, cruel, cunning -- and unpredictable leader. As some critics say, a CEO-style triad boss. On the other hand, he successfully shows Ngai is actually a passionate man whose family comes first. On the other hand, late gang leader is screened for one shot only (pun intended), his character is only reflected, not by flashbacks, but by short monologues recited by Ng. It is a quite demanding job and I would say Ng has done a really good job here.
Speaking of characters, another drift from IA, and many other traditional movies in the genre, female character actually plays "real" effects. Mary, played by Claudia Lau, is the closest girlfriend of Sam Hung. She is not just a powerless, declorative character. Like many female in the course of human history, she is the ignition point of the whole storm.
If the audiences has not forgotten IA actually hints that Inspector Wong (played by award-winning Anthony Wong) and Sam Hung (played by also award-winning Eric Tsang) have known each other for a long time. IA2 unveils their long-time mutual respects, and how all these change as the story flows along. Anthony Wong still delivers a high standard of acting just like in IA and how he plays the 3 ups-and-downs of Inspector Wong is simply terrific. On the contary, gangster Hung, Wong's arch-enemy in IA, is much lighter and more human. As with Wong, this character experiences changes which shapes of what to be seen in IA. However, I find the last party scene is unnecessary and does not seem to connect with the firece and uncanny Hung we used to know.
Relatively, the other major characters seems week. Mainland actor Jun Wu, plays another inspector who is a close partner with Wong. I could see the actor tries. Unfortunately, Wu's character is just too flat. His friendship and his clashes with Wong could not mark strong impressions among the audiences. I have a (probably false) feeling that this character is created to be destroyed and it is a waste of Wu's talents.
The actors portriating the young Wing-yan Chan (by Shawn Yu) and Kin-ming Lau (by Edison Chan) would be the weakest link in IA2. Except for a few scene, Edison puts up a regular expression of somewhat between arragonce and anger. For example, towards the end of airport scene, Lau would have a mixed feeling of guilt, anger, loss and vengence. This is an important scene for Lau's self-centered character, however, the actor simply fails to convince me.
The same goes to Shawn. He fails to play as someone who is torn between his role as a "policeman" and a triad member, his loyalty and duty. Most of the time, he just plays plain and "flat faced". To be fair, he gets a tad better towards the end of the movie as his character begins to merge with the character in IA.
Nonetheless, young actors weight must less as the others.
Speaking about continuity, IA2 does not fail in providing bits and pieces about the backstory of IA. And it is not hard for anyone to catch the images of other minor characters from IA. However, I have a few issues.
First, in IA, we see Hung was an ambitious and man of vision, that is why he implants many moles in the police department in the first place. However, the initial character of Hung seems too soft and passive. Why does he stand by Ngai in the time of crisis? We could not see his importance rises afterwards. Why didn't he use the chance and take out his opponents or expand his influence in the triad, then? Was he just covering himself for his long-term plan?
Also, why Wing-yan Chan remains in the end, even in light of his well-known ties with the Ngai family? How come does he becomes a subordinate of Keung? In IA, the position of Keung and Yan seems to have switched.
Apart from some goofs (accuracy of shooting from a paper bag, ignorance of emptied handgun and way of corspes could be burnt to ashes), the run of the movie stops rather abruptedly twice as timeline transits from year 1991 to 1995 and from 1995 to 1997. The effects on and changes of characters are not appearent so it leaves the audiences with a lot of imaginations and mental exercises. (Not that I hate mental exercises, it is rare for Hong Kong movies to make me enjoy doing so) I think the director could handle the storytelling a bit better smoother and tighter.
Despite of cliches, IA2 delivers a more powerful drama than the original. The acting, directing and many other technical aspects are top notch. The scriptwriters are very clever in telling from the other side of the theme and breaks away the shadow casted by the successful predecessor.
Looking forward to see the real "final" this December.
Now, IA 1 achieved what other normal cat-and-mouse cop flick couldn't:
inventive and intelligent. And it made a lot of money, so the directors
decide to make 2 more films. Instead of cashing in through bad sequel and
then worse prequel (Think Ringu, Ring 2/Rasen and the really bad Ring O),
breaks the cliched road by doing the prequel first and then the sequel,
except that the prequel isn't bad or worse. Which BTW will become the
subject of this review. IA 2 is one of the best HK film (possibly the
in the year of 2003. In fact, it is far more superior than first. Here's
1. Instead of the normal gangster film, IA 2 gives us a glimpse of what
really happened that changes the two IA 1 character into what they become
the future. Some might argue that this is supposed to be the film of the
main characters in IA 1. However, we must also consider the two
characters on why they become enemies and why they are hot on each
2. Its story really sums up well. BTW, the reason why the triad boss took
the undercover cop under his hands is that he still didn't know about the
In conclusion, IA 2 is far more superior than IA 1. Let's wait for the third installment.
IA2 has lived up to its predecessor's name. Although the supporting
Shawn Yue and Edison Chen, paled in comparison to their more experienced
classy leading men, their acting was A.
I just find it disturbing that in most triad and police movies in HK, the female roles are rather limited. This is in particularly true in IA1 ans IA2, where the female roles were either guest roles or supporting roles. Carina Lau's character should have been given a bit more coverage, esp she's such a fine actress and would be able to handle a much bigger role by herself.
Eric Tsang, Francis Ng and Anthony Wong were in fact the ones who brought their movie characters to life. A good effort to Shawn and Edison but kudos to the older actors! Hopefully, IA3 would be as good as IA and IA2.
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