Hong Kong’s most successful trilogy finally runs out of steam with a disappointing (and frankly rather pointless) finale – those Godfather comparisons continue…
Six months before the events in the original Infernal Affairs took place, the pressures of being an undercover cop are close to pushing Chen Wing Yan (Tony Leung) off the rails. Finding it increasingly difficult to keep his anger under control, Superintendent Wong (Anthony Wong) forces his to seek professional help – police psychiatrist Dr. Lee (Kelly Chen).
Meanwhile, 10 months after Infernal Affairs took place, Lau Kin Ming (Andy Lau) has just been cleared of the events over Yan’s death, and is back in Internal Affairs, attempting to redeem himself for his previous actions. His first case hits close to the bone, a police sergeant who has apparently killed himself in front of his ex-boss – Superintendent of Security Yeung (Leon Lai) – and also appears to be a triad mole.
In fact, he’s just one of several triad moles to have turned up dead in the last few months, leading Ming’s bosses to believe that perhaps one of Sam’s (Eric Tsang) moles is getting rid of the rest to cover his own tracks. Part of the extremely secretive Security wing, and using extremely dubious methods, Yeung looks like the most likely candidate, and Ming soon uncovers connections to mainland China triad boss Shen (Chen Daoming). Lau follows the trail back to a series of encounters with Yan a few months before his death, but soon Ming’s very sanity begins to unravel.
Directors Andrew Lau and Alan Mak play a neat trick with the final instalment, fooling you into believing Infernal Affairs 3 is about Lau’s redemption when in it’s about his retribution, his fall into Continuous Hell. Lau and Mak flip between present and past to give the audience something the prequel Infernal Affairs 2 couldn’t, more of our favourite characters Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang and Chapman To with Tony Leung and Andy Lau. But more than that what does it really add to our knowledge of them?
Wong, Tsang and To get little extra screen time, instead the film spends precious time eulogising Chen Wing Yan to the point of sainthood. When we’re not with him, we’re with characters paying vigil at his grave, discussing how great he was and so on – enough already! The cast to a fantastic job all round, as do new bloods Leon Lai (Fallen Angels, A Hero Never Dies) and Chen Daoming (Hero), but what chance to they have when there’s just too little time spent on developing their characters. We never even find out that much about Yeung other than he uses dodgy methods a means to an end. Nor do we find out any more about Shen other than that’s NOT who he says he is.
But what of Andy Lau? Shouldn’t this film be more about his character? His portrayal of Yan slowly losing touch with reality is great, with his catchphrase ‘Did I scare you? Sorry’ soon starting to have the resonance of De Niro in Cape Fear.
IA3 lacks the pace of it’s predecessors, which can’t be helped by a directors cut which adds over ten minutes to the running time. With all the flipping back and forth in time, the film never really seems to get started, let alone end properly. The (pseudo) romantic sequence between Yan and Dr Lee just stalls the film. The end result is closer to Tony Leung subsequent movie, Wong Kar-wai’s 2046, than an action thriller.
Unlike the other films, it’s finale is rather inconclusive, with too much left to the audience to deduce. Was it in fact Ming who was responsible for killing the other triad moles? Or was he manipulated by Yeung and Shen? The resolutions just don’t word hard enough, and there’s an air of desperation, of trying to bring all the characters together for one last triumphant effort without actually having a story to tell – unlike Internal Affairs 2.
Personally, I’d never bought into Ming’s turning over of a new leaf at the end of the original IA. The alternative ending shot for mainland China, where they don’t allow moral ambiguities, always struck a little truer, with Ming arrested for his crimes. And it didn’t take nearly two hours for Ming to receive his retribution.
If you loved the first films you might want to complete the experience, but you won’t miss anything by leaving this one out. It’s as well acted and filmed as ever. You have to have at least seen the first film to understand this, but if you haven’t don’t let this put you off…
Distributor: Tartan (UK)
Tartan's release includes a whole host of extras including deleted scens and a 'making of' documentary.