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PostPosted: Tue Dec 09, 2003 8:04 pm    Post subject: Straits Times' IA3 review

An affair to forget.

By Foong Woei Wan.
544 words
10 December 2003
Straits Times
(c) 2003 Singapore Press Holdings Limited

Too many gun shots, too many cross references to the earlier parts of this trilogy. Thank heavens for Tony Leung Chiu Wai

INFERNAL AFFAIRS III (PG) 110 minutesOpens on Friday IT'S impossible to accuse directing duo Andrew Lau and Alan Mak of a lack of ambition.

Last year, they had the guts to go for a high-concept narrative instead of a high body count in their crime hit, Infernal Affairs.

It told a yin-yang tale of a cop working undercover in a triad (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and a mole toiling in the police department (Andy Lau).

Two months ago, the directors put out a prequel, Infernal Affairs II, where they tried to out-epic The Godfather II - the granddaddy of gangster films - by cranking up the mafia melodrama.

Infernal Affairs III is the sequel to the first film and sees them maybe at their most daring: challenging the conventions of sequel-making and testing the patience of the movie-going public.

As a rule, when a man dies in a movie, it means you will not see the actor in the sequel. As another rule, events in a sequel tend to happen after, and not before, those in the original.

Not with directors Lau and Mak, however.

At the end of the first film, three of the four leads - Leung's cop Yan, Eric Tsang's crime chief Sum and Anthony Wong's Superintendent Wong - were dead. The last man standing was Andy Lau's mole, Ming.

But the sequel brings all four back, and adds two more players: Yeung (Leon Lai, below), a powerful policeman who might have triad ties and Shen (Chen Daoming), a limping gangland leader.

There are two interlocking stories here. One has Ming getting into a cat-and-mouse game with Yeung and Shen. The other is a flashback of how Yan ran into Yeung and Shen before dying, while making time to flirt with a pretty psychiatrist (Kelly Chen).

So, the movie moves back and forth in time without warning, because you are meant to keep guessing about Yeung and Shen's intentions - along with Ming and Yan.

After the initial confusion, the storytelling trick actually works fairly well.

The problem is in the pay-off, which comes as a triple whammy of an ending.

There are guns going off, a romantic denouement as well as heavy-handed references to the previous movies.

The directors try so hard to end the trilogy with several bangs that, alas, it goes out with a whimper instead.

The cast boasts six award-winning actors - Leung, Andy Lau, Tsang, Wong, Lai and Chen Daoming - which may be too much of a good thing.

Veterans Tsang, Wong and Chen are under-used here. Lai seems to do no more than wear glasses and glower. Lau attempts to emote, but as in the first film, it is Leung who steals the show.

He was all soulful torment there, as a good guy trapped by the triads.

Here, with his character's fate sealed, he is just having fun in the flashback, and puts in a relaxed, romantically-charged performance.

He is the only thing that makes this movie an affair to remember.
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