This is another movie that I’d been told lot’s about and had recommended to me time and time again, especially as I was a fan of Asian cinema. So when I finally saw it my expectations were very high, and that made me very wary too. I didn’t want to be disappointed or overly eager. When I saw it, I was stunned.
The first thing to realise, especially if you are not a fan of Asian cinema or you haven’t ventured that far yet, is that the movie has really combined the great visual style and storytelling of Asian cinema with Hollywood. Hollywood who bring…well…big budgets, but mainly the Western style of cinema. This isn’t about martial arts, freaky video tapes or murderous children. This is a morality tale of cops and gangsters.
Without giving too much away, the story is about a gangster who becomes a Policeman to work inside the Police Force for the Triad Boss, and a Policeman who is plucked from the Police Academy and placed undercover in the Triad Gang to work as a mole for the Police. Two moles, reversed in nature.
The Police Force mole is beginning to enjoy his role and life, settling with his girlfriend and working on the side of good. All the while the mole in the Triad Gang is struggling with his life as a gangster when all he wants to do is go and be a real cop and have a real life.
The immediate beginning of the story is a little hard to follow, watching how these characters come into their mature roles in life, in a way this is a good thing as it shows how close the two mole characters really are. However, once these scenes are passed the roles are far more distinct and easier to follow, and the chase is on.
As the Police monitor the Triads and the Triads monitor the Police they both suddenly realise each has a mole. It’s at this point that they each begin to search inwards and discover who is the informant. All the while the moles fight to retain their secret, but also battle their internal demons.
Honestly. it’s easier to watch and understand than it is to write about. Believe me that the whole setup is superbly written, acted and filmed. The leads all perform excellently, and are totally natural and believeable, these are Andy Lau as Lau Kin Ming, Tony Leung Chiu Wai as Chan Wing Yan, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang as SP Wong and Eric Tsang as Sam. Actually I was about to try and pick out an individual performance over the others, and it’s just not possible. Although their styles and roles are different, they all excel in different ways.
The film is an excellent portrayal of morality, the vast no mans land between good and evil, and the very nature of man.
I loved it, totally. It’s ranked with one of my best films of all time. It looks slick, filled with great actors playing great roles, and a hugely meaty story that doesn’t fail to deliver, even up to the final scenes. A must see for all movie fans.
The DVD itself provides some interesting extras but nothing too exciting. The Outtakes and Deleted scenes are just that, not the usual silly or funny mistakes, but just scenes that either weren’t used or just deleted. The alternative ending is quite interesting, although not radically different.
The two really interesting parts are the behind the scenes featurette and the Directors commentary, and surprisingly in that order. The featurette has all the leads talking about the movie, and various snippets of interviews with them, along with the Director and some of the crew. It’s a really insightful featurette, and I usually don’t like these things.
On the commentary it’s a bit more unusual from the normal western commentary you’re probably used to. The stars and director will all talk at certain bits about their characters and their development, what you won’t really see is the commentary on something specifically happening on screen. I found this quite refreshing, and hugely insightful for background and surrounding story to the characters you’ve just watched through the movie. Whether they really are sitting around a table watching the movie and having a discussion, or it’s cut together clips I’m not sure, the effect provides a lot of good information around the story rather than the movie.
Overall the film is superb and the DVD compliments it very well. I dread the Hollywood remake.