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FilmsAsia: Asian film reviews
Soh Yun-Huei
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   Infernal Affairs III  


Infernal Affairs III

Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei

Chinese Title: Wu jian dao 3
Director: Lau Wai Keung, Mak Siu Fai
Writing Credits: Felix Chong, Mak Siu Fai
Cast: Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Kelly Chen, Sammi Cheng, Leon Lai
Genre: Crime Drama
Country: Hong Kong
Language: Cantonese
Year Released: 2003
Rating: * ½ (out of four stars)

Infernal Affairs III reflects exactly what’s wrong with Hong Kong cinema – the inability to leave a good movie alone. Infernal Affairs was released in December last year to extremely favorable critical and general response, and expectedly this began a chain of sequels for the film. Infernal Affairs II, released in October this year, was a worthy successor to the first movie, and Infernal Affairs III follows hot on its trail, released a mere two months later. Unfortunately, Infernal Affairs III is a thorough failure – a needlessly complex storyline that forces new characters into the Infernal Affairs chronology, some truly bad emoting, and an indecisiveness that badly cripples the film. Although it’s granted that fans of the series would want to see how things end, Infernal Affairs III leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and to have such a film become the concluding chapter in one of the best franchises in recent HK film history is simply a waste.

Infernal Affairs III is both a prequel and a sequel to the events that occurred in the two previous films. One plot thread is set six months before Yan (Tony Leung), the police mole in Sam’s (Eric Tsang) triad, was killed. Yan has been working for two years under Sam, and it seems that he has finally gained Sam’s trust. Sam assigns him to deal with Shen (Chen Daoming), a mysterious businessman from China, but it seems like Sam has his own agenda up his sleeve, which puts Yan in great danger. Superintendent Wong (Anthony Wong), Yan’s mentor and superior, is wary of Sam’s motives but still needs the information that’s provided by Yan’s spying. We also get to see the lighter side of things, when Yan is assigned to psychiatrist Dr. Lee (Kelly Chen), and in the process of treatment, the two fall for each other.

The other plot thread is set 10 months after Yan’s death, and the only surviving character from the first film, Ming (Andy Lau), previously Sam’s mole in the police force, is under investigation for the death of SP Wong and Yan. Meanwhile, he’s been relegated to administrative duties, and he watches with concern the meteoric rise of Yeung (Leon Lai) in the police force – Ming suspects that Yeung is a mole of the triads, just like himself. Ming begins his own covert sleuthing, only to find that Yeung seems to be anticipating his every move, and Shen, now a cripple, is trailing him too. The cat and mouse game comes to a head, but with consequences that the players may not be ready to accept.

If nothing else, directors Andrew Lau and Andy Mak must at least be applauded for daring to try filming a sequel that is so different from the norm, with the film doing double duty as prequel and sequel. Unfortunately, it takes more than guts to pull it off, and Andrew and Andy do not really manage to do it. The way the two timelines intersect may be confusing for many audiences, but paying close attention to the movie will probably help a fair bit. The biggest problem with Infernal Affairs III, however, is that it doesn’t know what it wants to be – at times a melodrama, at times bordering on espionage, and suddenly a romantic comedy of sorts. The lane switching is jarring and the way the new characters (namely Yeung and Shen) are forced into the film is contrived and unconvincing.

Although littered with A-class actors, Infernal Affairs III is a strangely underacted affair. Andy Lau is given the most screen time, but unfortunately he is unable to emote properly, and the latter scenes in which he takes center stage fails to convince. Tony Leung is once again the best thing in the film, and the scenes with him are undoubtedly the best in the movie, although a large part of it is unnecessary and does not advance the plot. For the remaining actors, Chen Daoming and Leon Lai are particularly useless, and both Anthony Wong and Eric Tsang take a backseat, much to the detriment of the film. Much of this could be attributed to the fact that with the multiple timelines and the increased number of central characters, there simply isn’t enough time to give everyone fair coverage. For the second time this year, a trilogy is let down by its final installment (the first being the Matrix trilogy), and sadly Infernal Affairs goes out with a whimper rather than a bang.

Final Word: A totally unnecessary sequel, this movie ends the franchise on a particularly low note, and should be avoided totally except for cinema completists.