Thursday, October 19th, 2006
Police And Thieves 3/Remix
In anticipation of seeing The Departed, the much-acclaimed American adaptation of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, I went out and rented Infernal Affairs 3 this weekend, having seen and thoroughly enjoyed parts one and two last year and wanting to wrap things up before seeing Scorsese’s version.
Whereas Infernal Affairs 2 was actually a prequel to the original, the third and final installment is a proper follow-up to the first film (though it only makes any sense if you saw the Hong Kong final scene and not the one shot for mainland China). It’s a bit tough to talk about it without spoiling the first film, but I can say this – while it’s something of a mess for trying to simultaneously expand on and ret-con the already convoluted and labyrinthine whack-a-mole plot of the first film, it actually manages to pull out a very strong and unpredictable plot out of it all and ends up being rather satisfying. Not as good as the first two, but still with more pluses than minuses. I don’t doubt that part of my difficulty in following things was the 22- and 14-month gaps between seeing the original films and this one, but I still managed to keep up on the main plot points alright.
As for The Departed, when a big studio film clocks in at 87% and 93% at Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes respectively, odds are pretty good that it’s a good film – and it is. I was surprised how faithfully the plot followed the original films – I expected that they’d lift the premise and maybe diverge from there, but besides rejigging things to fit the new locale and characters it’s quite faithful. And maybe that’s why I wasn’t overwhelmed by the film – I knew what was going to happen, and for a suspense-thriller, that’s pretty much death.
Which segues into the differences between the two. Whereas the vibe of the Hong Kong version was a slick, modern gangster film, Scorsese’s vision is a helluva lot grittier, bloodier and all-around dirtier. Jack Nicholson’s crew are old school street hoods as happy to beat the tar out of someone with their fists as put a bullet through their head (everyone in Scorsese’s Boston is an excellent marksman). His characters are also more fully developed, which they had better be considering the film runs an epic two and a half hours. Matt Damon’s mole is a bit of an exception to this, displaying less of the crisis of conscience than Andy Lau’s Ming did and is more interested in covering his own ass than redeeming himself. Jack Nicholson is his typical scenery-chewing self as the mob boss but is certainly more threatening and debased than his HK counterpart was – probably too much so, but when was the last time Nicholson gave a nuanced performance? I think it was sometime around never. Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg are all good with what their given but not surprisingly it’s Leonardo DiCaprio, Scorsese’s muse, and his undercover cop who is given the richest backstory, making the mob part of his family history which he’s trying to escape.
Scorsese’s film is different enough from Infernal Affairs that comparing them doesn’t necessarily require one to be superiour to the other. As I mentioned, whichever you see first will ruin the plot for the other, but there’s still plenty to appreciate in the execution. Which there’s also plenty of. But one point where the original definitely comes out ahead is the stylishness of their climaxes, or at least the promo photos taken from them, as you can see above. Hong Kong’s stone cold showdown versus USA’s sissy fight? No contest.
The AV Club gets down to brass tacks with The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn and Tad Kubler while The Pioneer Press has two interviews with the band from a hometown POV. Their first hometown, not their current one. The first video from Boys And Girls In America is now up courtesy of AOL who also offered up a different MP3 from the album a little while back. The Hold Steady are at the Horseshoe October 28.