Infernal Affairs (Mou gaan dou)

2002

Infernal Affairs (Mou gaan dou)

Critics Consensus

Smart and engrossing, this is one of Hong Kong's better cop thrillers.

94%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 62

95%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 62,741
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Movie Info

As Infernal Affairs opens, Ming (Andy Lau of Full-time Killer) is being initiated into the criminal underworld by triad boss Sam (Eric Tsang of The Accidental Spy), who ends his speech to his young charges by wishing them success in the police department. Ming enters the police academy, where he excels, but sees his classmate, Yan (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai of In the Mood for Love), expelled for "breaking the rules." It turns out that Yan wasn't actually drummed out of the force, but recruited by Superintendent Wong (Anthony Wong of Hard-Boiled) as an undercover operative. Just as Ming is achieving success in the police department while secretly working for Sam, Ming is gaining Sam's trust as a triad member, while reporting to Wong. Ten years later, both men, still undercover, have grown confused about their true identities, while their bosses, Sam and Wong, wage a battle of wits against each other. Each boss learns that the other has a mole working for him, and unwittingly entrusts the mole himself to ferret out the culprit. Ming and Yan scramble to expose one another's identity in an effort to save their own skins. Infernal Affairs was co-directed by Andrew Lau (who worked as a cinematographer on several of Wong Kar-Wai's films) and Alan Mak. Renowned cinematographer Christopher Doyle served as "Visual Consultant." The film was shown at New Directors/New Films in 2003. ~ Josh Ralske, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Infernal Affairs (Mou gaan dou)

All Critics (62) | Top Critics (23) | Fresh (58) | Rotten (4)

  • The pace and plot are dizzying, but the movie also works as a study of fractured identity: the two have led double lives so long they're no longer sure who they are.

    Mar 13, 2018 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Newsweek
    Top Critic
  • Everything you'd want in a police action thriller: powerhouse performances, Grade A production values, a good script and suspenseful direction.

    Feb 4, 2005 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Beauty in its consistent, washed-out blues and silvers, grace in its understated, intense male performances and energy in its unyielding commitment to tone and tension.

    Dec 24, 2004 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • What makes it special is the inner turmoil caused by living a lie. If everyone you know and everything you do for 10 years indicates you are one kind of person, and you know you are another, how do you live with that?

    Dec 24, 2004 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • This is what movies are supposed to feel like -- provocative, exciting, chilling, complex and fully engaging.

    Nov 29, 2004 | Rating: B+

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • Skilfully directed by cinematographer Andrew Lau Wai-Keung, Infernal Affairs has the feel of a made-for-prime-time U.S. police thriller.

    Nov 27, 2004 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Infernal Affairs (Mou gaan dou)

  • Aug 17, 2015
    Since I didn't get a chance to review 'The Departed' back in 2006 due to the fact I wasn't reviewing movies then, I decided, why not watch the original it was based on? Infernal Affairs came out a few years before The Departed, and it's almost a mirror copy of what Martin Scorcese did. In fact, you could say the combination of TWO directors is better than the ONE the American version had. Instead of an overlong three-hour movie, here we have a nice, tight hour and forty minutes. The cuts are quicker. The dialogue is more focused and on the path. Sure, the American version has the budget and the acting to put it over the top, but let's not forget the stellar work Andy Lau and Tony Leung have done both in Chinese films and Chinese films made for American audiences like House of Flying Daggers or Hero, respectively. While the same twists and turns emerge, having watched The Departed first and then Infernal Affairs second actually makes you want to go back and rewatch the former just to see the small nuances between the two. You can't go wrong with either. In fact, you should spend the time to watch both.
    Lane Z Super Reviewer
  • Nov 10, 2014
    This might be one of the rare examples where the remake is actually superior to the film that inspired it. Of course we're talking about The Departed. There's just something about that film that feels more complete. Of course, I'm not saying that this film is bad, as you can see that I thought the film was great by the rating I gave it. I just thought The Departed was a little more complex, enthralling, and better acted. It just flows better and it's over an hour longer than this one. With that said, this film is absolutely no slouch. The Departed wouldn't have ever existed if not for this film's creatively suspenseful and twisty plot. I think since it's been over a decade since this film's release, people have sort of forgotten how influential this movie was for Hong Kong cinema in general. The main problem, while I found parts of the film to be perfectly executed, is that it's a rough start for the most part. It truly takes a while before you're truly invested in the movie. It's probably 30-35 minutes in the movie once both bosses, Wong and Sam, realize that the other has a mole working for them. This is when the movie really kicks into high gear. The movie's characters struggle with where their loyalties lie. Well Lau, working for the police but feeding Sam, the mobster, information, is the only one struggles with his loyalties. Yan, in my opinion, was always dedicated to his work as an undercover cop, it's just that he's had to do shitty things to maintain a certain appearance with Sam. Lau, on the other hand, struggles because I think he's genuinely grown to respect SP Wong, the superintendent of the police, but he's also loyal to Sam, while also looking out for himself. I think Lau did everything that he did for his own personal gain, not because of any grudge he may have had with Sam over any of his actions in the film. I think Lau saw an opportunity to improve his own standing in the department and he did what he did to achieve that. But there's also a part of him that feels like there's still some good left in him, even if he did some questionable things. It's not like in The Departed where Matt Damon's character, which would be Lau in this film, was just a detestable rat. There were parts of the film that I didn't like, like this subplot that came out of nowhere with Yan's ex not telling him that he actually has a daughter. This only serves to add a little bit of sentimentality to the ending, nothing else. It added nothing to the film. There's also some sentimentality with ***MASSIVE SPOILERS*** Wong's and Yan's death. They show flashbacks of their deeds while sad music plays in the background. It didn't work because the score was really cheap sounding. It made everything more laughable actually. That's one of the few complaints I have. Very few complaints really. The film is never bad, it just takes a while before it kicks into high gear. One of the things I liked about this is how every decision opens up several potential consequences. Like if Lau does A, it could lead to B, C, D, or E. Hell it could lead to all of them. There's an importance to every action, especially what reaction it's gonna cause. Not that it's missing from other films, but it's far more noticeable here. While I think this film's remake is much better, and it has some flaws, this is still an excellent example of why Hong Kong has some truly excellent police thrillers up its sleeve.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Jul 25, 2013
    I had watched The Departed years prior and love that film so watching this I was super bias but in the end they are so a like and very different at the same time. Hollywood finally got a remake right and created something to do the original justice
    Brendan N Super Reviewer
  • Nov 28, 2012
    A very smart and taut thriller that prefers to focus on its characters and the relationship between them instead of jumping into action, shootings and twists as is usually expected from this kind of crime movie.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer

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