Infernal Affairs 3 (2003) / Thriller-Drama
aka Mou gaan dou III: Jung gik mou gaan
aka Infernal Affairs III: End Inferno
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for violence
Running Time: 118 min.
Cast: Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Leon Lai, Kelly Chen, Anthony Wong, Chen Dao Ming, Eric Tsang, Chapman To, Edison Chen (cameo), Sammi Cheng (cameo)
Director: Andrew Lau, Alan Mak
Screenplay: Felix Chong, Alan Mak
Review published February 17, 2007
The Infernal Affairs series borrows another page from the Godfather series by having the next entry serve as both a sequel and a prequel to the first chapter (the first sequel mirrors The Godfather Part II by tracing the character history, while this one emulates its two-pronged story structure). If Infernal Affairs delivered plot-driven action, and Infernal Affairs 2 provided mostly background drama and character development, Infernal Affairs 3 delves more into the psychological aspects of the characters. It is set up to fill in more information as to why the characters do what they do from a motivation standpoint, as well as to show just how intricate the connection between the police and triads are, where it seems everyone involved has a duplicitous nature. As Ming finds out, it's hard to know just which way is up anymore when having to put on so many different hats.
Andy Lau (Cat and Mouse, Dance of a Dream) returns as Ming, now heading up the Internal affairs division. He is trying to root out any remaining moles within the police organization, and he suspects that Yeung (Lai, City Hunter), a rising star in the Security division, is his biggest threat. As he delves deeper in Yeung's activities, Ming finds that he himself may be in jeopardy, possibly due to a connection between Yeung and Ming's former triad boss, Sam (Tsang, Partners).
While IA2 delivered a great deal of back story that fully enhances the action of the first film, the story in IA3 isn't really as resonant or deep. Mostly it is a means to show some events that transpired before the execution of certain key characters, which come to a head in the present-day Hong Kong that sees Ming trying his best to eradicate any information that would tie him to being the triad mole in the police department so that he can continue to be the good cop he dreams of being. Released about two months after Infernal Affairs 2 hit the theaters, perhaps there wasn't enough time to fully develop the project into something more intricate, as it feel more like a mood piece that capitalizes on being able to work in one more ripple into the events of the Infernal Affairs saga.
As often happens with sequels, the appearance of the actors has changed somewhat, but in the case if this film, it can be continuously disconcerting. When you see flashbacks to Tony Leung's Yan character with facial hair interspersed with newly-shot material where he is clean-shaven, it can take you out of the moment. It also doesn't help that that Yan's personality is not quite in keeping with his more sullen nature in the first film. One could argue that it's because he is "in love", but if you reflect back to the original Infernal Affairs you will see he still wasn't as jovial during that same period as he is in this film.
If you're a fan of the first two Infernal Affairs films, you'll probably find the psychological drama appealing enough to give the series one more go, although it isn't nearly as riveting as the first chapter or as richly presented as the second. It's a bit of a disappointment in terms of overall interest level, but if you need more closure to the story than the first film provided, it does tie up some of the important loose ends, not the least of which is the fate of Ming and his adjustment to his life of being a cop on the side of good. Unfortunately, compared to the other two entries, it pales by comparison by being too slow and more than a little convoluted. The Infernal series would rightfully end here, cooling off considerably from the heat generated by the first two entries. Thankfully, the series is laid to rest here before momentum froze over completely.
©2007 Vince Leo