Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Departed versus Infernal Affairs

Tomorrow night, the Oscars will announce their awards, and I hope the Academy chooses The Departed as the best picture of 2006 (the other nominees are The Queen, Little Miss Sunshine, Babel, and Letters from Iwo Jima). I also hope that the Departed's Martin Scorsese (director) and William Monahan (screewriter) receive Oscars tomorrow night.

Tonight, however, I watched the movie Infernal Affairs, the original Hong Kong movie from which "The Departed" is based.

I was struck by how close the movies matched one another. (I heard they were close, but seeing is believing in this case.) Both movies shared a lot of touchstone scenes (cops following bad guys on the highway, rooftop confrontations, and a rendezvous in a movie theater). But both movies also differed in key areas (the relationship of the psychiatrist being one of the bigger ones).

The American version packs the punch with star power (it's hard to compete with Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, and Martin Sheen). However, the Hong Kong version packs as big a punch with two strong performances by Andy Lau (the Damon character), and Tony Leung (the DiCaprio character). Because Lau and Leung looked much older than their youthful counterparts in "The Departed", "Infernal Affairs" had a weightier feel. More pathos.

The climactic scenes and the incredulous reveals seemed tighter in "Infernal Affairs". Whereas Scorsese goes over the top with the violence, the violence in "Affairs" felt more vicious, more cold-blooded.

So what's "better?" I'd probably give a slight nod to the Hong Kong version, but in the end, both movies made me appreciate the other. So when you're in the DVD store, or browsing through your NetFlix queue, get both of them. And tomorrow night, root for the American version of "Infernal Affairs".


  1. I definitely want to do what you have done - watch both movies. I had heard that there were actually 2 Internal Affairs? Tony Leung is one of my favorite actors.

    Another interesting HK - US comparison is watching Reservoir Dogs and City On Fire (which stars Chow Yun Fat).

  2. When I was looking over Tony Leung's filmography, I saw he was in Chungking Express, which you recommended, and which I really liked. Definitely do "The Departed" versus "Infernal Affairs" exercise. I'll look out for "City on Fire".