"Men do not change events; events change men"

So goes one of the repeated refrains within Infernal Affairs, thereby establishing the key point of distinction between its doubled protagonists, Chen Wing Yan, the undercover cop amidst the triads who comes to accept his lot, and Lau Kin Ming, the triad mole amidst the cops who does not.

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A different, more introspective and character-driven sequel than its immediate predecessor, which backtracked on the original, with the consequence that it could be taken more or less on its own terms, or as part of the series, Infernal Affairs III essentially requires the viewer to have seen the first film, its parallel narratives bookending the events depicted therein by a few months.

In the past, we see how Yan found himself cracking up under the strain of his double life and gradually came to accept his inevitable fate.

In the present, we see Ming relegated to desk duty and under investigation for his suspected involvement in Yan's death, all the while trying to cover his tracks and atone for his past.

Moving between the two narratives are Dr Lee (Kelly Chen), the psychiatrist who served as confidant for Yan and a couple of hitherto minor characters, enigmatic mainland gangster Shan (Daoming Chen) and ambitious police superindent Yeung (Leon Lai).

With direction, performances and technical qualities - cinematography, design, music, editing, etc - of a uniformly high quality, Infernal Affairs III cannot be called a bad film by any stretch of the imagination.

What it does seem to suffer from, however, is a touch of sequelitis, not quite fitting in with its predecessors - particularly Yan's acceptance of his fate as compared to his characterisation in the first film - nor attaining their admittedly heady heights.

Still, filmmakers Wai Keung Lau and Siu Fai Mak are to be congratulated on their achievements and vision within the Infernal Affairs trilogy as a whole, all the more so considering the difficulties that have faced the Hong Kong industry in recent years.

Reviewed on: 06 Oct 2005
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Infernal Affairs III packshot
Final part of trilogy concerning undercover cop amongst triad gangs in Hong Kong and triad agent in the police.
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Director: Wai Keung Lau, Siu Fai Mak

Writer: Felix Chong, Siu Fai Mak

Starring: Andy Lau, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Kelly Chen, Daoming Chen, Edison Chen, Leon Lai, Eric Tsang, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang

Year: 2003

Runtime: 118 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Hong Kong


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