Director: Mak Siu-Fai, Pun Yiu-Ming
Cast: Huang Xuan, Duan Yi Hong, Lang Yue Ting, Zu Feng, Xing Jia Dong, David Wang
Runtime: 2 hrs 1 min
Rating: NC16 (Drug Use And Violence)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 6 April 2017
Synopsis: Police officer Lin Kai is assigned to be an undercover in a drug cartel by his supervisor Li Jianguo. As he gradually penetrates into the “Twin Eagles” drug cartel, he discovers that the big boss, Eagle, is connected to a crime case investigated by Li ten years ago. Li was then an undercover. In order to gain Eagle’s trust, Lin is forced to become a drug addict. Fighting against the drug addiction was hard enough, he must not lose his focus on locating Eagle’s drug production base. In the process, Lin finds out that Eagle had seized Li’s work partner, Ning Zhi, for ten years just waiting for the day he could take the revenge. Li has to save Ning even it might cost his life. It is not only about fighting the drug dealers now, it is an extraordinary mission!
In 2002, Asian movie goers went gaga over Infernal Affairs, a Hong Kong crime thriller directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak. The screenplay penned by Mak and Felix Chong tells the story of a police officer who infiltrates a triad (ladies swooned over the exhausted looking but suave Tony Leung), and a police officer secretly working for the same gang (ladies swooned over the villainous but slick Andy Lau).
In the original ending, Leung’s character dies and Lau’s character gets away. In the version shown in Mainland China, Leung’s character dies and Lau’s character is arrested for his mole activities. The alternate ending was shot for the Mainland Chinese market, where censors advocate the punishment of bad guys in movies.
Some 15 years later, Mak returns to the familiar themes of Infernal Affairs and directs this Mainland Chinese production with Anthony Pun, with a story written by Chong. As one character rightly points out in the movie, everything these days is about the renminbi (the official name of the currency introduced by the Communist People's Republic of China at the time of its foundation in 1949), and why wouldn’t Mak and Chong dabble in the lucrative market?
The protagonist is an undercover cop (Huang Xuan, who does a good job at playing the tortured hero) trying to get to the heart of the heroin syndicate business. He has worked his way up the ladder, earning the trust of the mob boss. He must next bust a Golden Triangle heroin cartel led by Eagle, a ruthless Pablo Escobar like character played by the excellent Duan Yihong. In the mix is the undercover cop’s supervisor who has an untold past from his days as a field agent.
The three men have very good on screen chemistry, and each flexes his own acting chops. You wonder whether there is anyone in Mainland China who can’t act (in this writer’s opinion, whether you make it in the fame game depends on whether you have the luck to stand out in the world’s most populous country, with a population of over 1.381 billion). There is so much acting going on in the 121 minute movie, you wonder whether there is anything in the mental cat and mouse game that wouldn’t intrigue you.
It is nice to watch a movie without familiar faces – you will be totally absorbed in the cast’s commendable ability to scream, shout, emote and tear. Huang is believable as a tormented soul, Duan is gleefully wicked and a joy to watch, while Zu is the kind of superior you would go all the way for.
The filmmakers know their actors well, and effectively create a complicated but captivating web of intense relationships with the characters, There is no way viewers would scorn the characters with disbelief with such strong acting.
Alas, what we get for a finale is an out of this world shootout that goes from the rooftops to the streets. The stunts are ridiculously exhilarating, and the car chases are silly yet fun to watch. It is a deafening, preposterous conclusion to an otherwise well set up plot. And you know the bad guys won’t get away in this one.
(The movie’s leading men impress with their acting prowess, before fighting it out in a loud and preposterous action packed finale)
Review by John Li