Infernal Affairs (Wu Jian Dao) (2002)

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Released 18-Aug-2004

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Main Menu Audio & Animation
Alternate Ending
Featurette-Making Of
Gallery-Montage - Confidential File
Music Video
Theatrical Trailer-2
Teaser Trailer
TV Spots
Trailer-Eastern Eye Montage, Volcano High, Yojimbo, Avalon
Trailer-The Grudge
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 96:51
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (70:46) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Wai Keung Lau
Siu Fai Mak
Studio
Distributor
Media Asia
Madman Entertainment
Starring Andy Lau
Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Anthony Wong Chau-Sang
Eric Tsang
Kelly Chen
Sammi Cheng
Edison Chen
Shawn Yue
Elva Hsiao
Man-chat To
Ka Tung Lam
Ting Yip Ng
Dion Lam
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI ? Music Kwong Wing Chan


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Cantonese Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Cantonese dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.30:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This film juxtaposes the lives of two policemen. One is Chen Wing Yan, who was ostensibly kicked out of the academy before graduation, but was in fact enlisted by two policemen, one of whom is Superintendent Wong, to work as an undercover cop amongst the triads. Lau Kin Ming, on the other hand, is one of several young triad members whom gang leader Hon Sam gets to enlist in the force, so that he has people on the inside.

    Years later Yan wants out of the triads, but is convinced by Wong to stay on. Yan is now working for Sam, while Ming is working for Wong. Neither Sam nor Wong are aware that they have a mole in their organisation, and since the death of the other policeman who enlisted Yan, only Wong knows that he is really a cop.

    An operation to catch Sam in the act of doing a cocaine deal with some Thai drug lords fails, because Ming tips Sam off. But Ming realises that Wong is getting inside information from someone, and soon both sides realise that they have a mole in their midst. It becomes a race against time for Wong and Yan to discover who the mole inside the police force is, before Sam finds out that Yan is really a policeman.

    This is not one of those films where the villains wear long leather coats and carry those guns whose mechanism locks back when they are out of bullets. There are no slow motion shootouts with the protagonists firing guns in both hands while diving sideways. And there is no scene where Yan and Ming stand pointing guns at each other's heads.

    Instead, this film relies on the unglamorous things, like an intelligent plot, believable situations, carefully drawn characters and crisp direction. The original title of the film translates as The Way of Wu Jian. Wu Jian is apparently the Buddhist centre of Hell. Yan does not want to become the thing that he joined the police to fight, and he not only wants to become a real policeman, he wants his identity back. Ming finds that he enjoys police work, and really wants to get away from his past. Both men are in a kind of hell of their own making.

    I have never really been a fan of Cantopop star Andy Lau, who usually seems to walk through his roles wearing a smug smile. In this film, though, he gives a surprisingly good performance, though he is probably too old for the character of Ming. Tony Leung Chiu Wai (not to be confused with Tony Leung Kar Fai) is exceptional as the reluctant undercover agent Yan. Anthony Wong takes a break from playing gangsters and makes a good SP Wong, and Eric Tsang tones down his usual mannerisms to make a credible Sam. Also of note is Sammi Cheng, very good as Ming's girlfriend Mary.

    The film is directed by Andrew Lau (no relation to Andy) and Alan Mak and they direct with considerable skill, only occasionally drawing attention to the direction by flashy camerawork or unusual angles (probably the influence of Lau, who has made several outlandish looking over-directed films). In the case of this film, the few instances of these techniques actually serve the same purpose as the low comedy in other films of this genre: they divert your attention from the story and thus provide a relief from the tension built up by the main story.

    This is a highly entertaining and satisfying thriller. In 2003, Infernal Affairs 2 and Infernal Affairs 3 were released, the former a prequel to the first film and the latter a sequel. There have been some mixed reviews of these, but hopefully AV Channel will see fit to release them on DVD in Region 4 in due course.

    An American remake is already in pre-production, with the story set in Boston and involving an Irish-American gang. The film is rumoured to star Brad Pitt and Leonardo di Caprio and to be directed by Martin Scorsese. Make of that what you will.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.30:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. The original aspect ratio was 2.35:1, so a small amount of the image is missing.

    I think that the look of the film is deliberate and not a result of the transfer or the source materials. There is a slightly processed look most of the time, as if it was shot on high definition video and transferred to film. The colours are slightly drab and tinged with blue. Sharpness is not perfect, though it is of reasonable quality. Shadow detail is reasonable, though there really is nothing here that would be affected adversely by this aspect of the transfer.

    While some edge enhancement is noticeable at times, it is very mild and most people would not be distracted by it. Aliasing is a problem, however. There are a number of scenes shot outdoors in the streets of Hong Kong, and the angles of buildings, grilles and other straight lines show some aliasing effects. Perhaps it was my absorption in the film that prevented me from being disturbed by this artefact.

    Like another film in this aspect ratio I reviewed recently, there are pale white lines at the top and bottom edge of the frame. I am not sure what these represent. Possibly they are intended as guides for cropping the film, in which case someone has goofed during the transfer process. These are not distracting but they are noticeable, even when viewed on a PC monitor.

    Film artefacts are kept to a minimum, with some dirt and occasional minor film damage in the form of small white spots the only issues. Again, these are not distracting to any extent.

    The film is presented with optional subtitles, which are in yellow italicised text displayed along the bottom edge of the frame. They are quite readable and clear, though there is one instance of a grammatical error and a couple of Americanisms (for example, the term "hood" being used to describe the local area).

    The disc is RSDL-formatted, with the layer change placed at 70:46. This occurs mid-scene and is a little distracting.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The film has three audio tracks. The default track is Dolby Digital 5.1, and there is a DTS 5.1 track as well as a Dolby Digital 2.0 track. All are in the original Cantonese. I listened to the two surround tracks.

    The DTS track is nicely done. Most of the work is done by the three front channels. The rear channels are used to create a subtle surround effect, and are only really noticeable in themselves occasionally, such as the sound of the golf club hitting balls during the scene on the rooftop driving range. The subwoofer fills out the bass sounds nicely, without being overused.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 track is set to a lower level than the DTS track, and is not nearly as involving, with the front speakers seeming more separated and the subwoofer more pronounced. The DTS track sounds significantly richer and more detailed.

    This film boasts a very good music score by Kwong Wing Chan. I found that I did not think of the music as music per se, but as a part of the overall film experience, which is the way it should be. It is punchy enough to complement the action sequences without affecting the tension of the quieter scenes.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Animation and Audio

    The main menu has background of footage from the film shown as if reflected in the windows of a building, plus some music from the film.

Alternative Ending (3:40)

    Included is the quite different ending intended for mainland Chinese audiences. You can choose to watch only the ending (most of the running time is the end credits), or the whole film with the alternative ending. The Hong Kong ending is much better.

Making of Infernal Affairs (16:04)

    This is not really a making of documentary, more like a long trailer for the film, with excerpts interspersed with the actors and directors talking up the film. This was obviously intended for screening on TV as an advertising feature. It does not really add much to the film and I would not watch it again.

    The aspect ratio is 1.33:1 and there are optional English subtitles, which are yellow on a black strip. The black strip is to cover up the burned-in Chinese subtitles.

Confidential File (6:05)

    This extra is more like a making of documentary than the making of documentary. This is behind the scenes footage showing pre and post filming parties and shows the filming of some of the scenes in the film. While interesting to watch once, there is not really much of substance here.

Music Video (3:20)

    This is the song from the film, sung by Lau and Leung. The clip has Chinese subtitles which appear to have been included in the original clip, but there are no English subtitles available.

Infernal Affairs Trailers (7:21)

    Four trailers for the film. The original Chinese trailer, the American trailer, a teaser trailer and a TV spot are included. The Chinese and teaser trailers are 16x9 enhanced, the American trailer is widescreen but not enhanced.

Trailers (8:02)

    Several items related to Eastern Eye releases. There are trailers for Volcano High, The Grudge (Ju-On), Avalon and Yojimbo, plus a montage trailer of releases with a thumping soundtrack. The montage includes a mixture of 16x9 enhanced and unenhanced footage, which looks a little strange.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Hong Kong Region 3 release is identical in terms of content, but is spread across 2 discs instead of one.

    A UK Region 2 disc is being released in late June 2004 by Tartan Video. I have no details on this edition.

    At this time there is no DVD edition of this film available in Region 1.

Summary

    An exceptional thriller from Hong Kong. Well worth the price of admission.

    The video quality leaves something to be desired, but it is watchable.

    The audio quality is very good.

    The extras are okay but nothing to write home about.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Philip Sawyer (Bio available.)
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony 86CM Trinitron Wega KVHR36M31. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to DVD player, Dolby Digital, dts and DVD-Audio. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationYamaha RX-V596 for surround channels; Yamaha AX-590 as power amp for mains
SpeakersMain: Tannoy Revolution R3; Centre: Richter Harlequin; Rear: Pioneer S-R9; Subwoofer: JBL SUB175

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