Infernal Affairs (2002) “Continuous Hell”


DIRECTORS: Andrew Lau & Alan Mak

The film opens with a reference to a Buddhist teaching. On screen-text reads “The worst of the eight hells is continuous hell.” In this instance hell can equate to suffering and this film examines that suffering, but suffering of what?

This Hong Kong crime thriller is told wonderfully well and the two main characters are convincing in their torment of identity.  The premise is that a Policeman becomes a mole inside the gangs and someone from the gangs becomes a mole by joining the Police. The two men have been in their false identities for longer than ten years. Have they become their new identity or  are they still gripping their true identity? What is true identity?

Andy Lau plays Inspector Lau, the mole inside the Police unit who really works for Sam the local gang leader. Lau and Sam are both ambitious characters, Sam needs Lau to understand how to work around the police, this will long term help Sam in  his ambition of becoming the Hong Kong drug king. Lau needs Sam to drive his ambition of working  up the ladder of the Police force and needing to measure success.

Tony Leung plays Yan the mole inside Sam’s gang and largely feels trapped. He understands who he is,  a cop. He’s forever reminded he needs to be someone else to do his job. He has violent tendencies and is that because he’s now part of a gang or is it because he’s wanting to get out?  He has a confidant in SP Shing and despite wanting out, nothing will become of it.


The film was remade into The Departed by Martin Scorsese. The Departed was a tense gritty crime thriller.

Infernal Affairs is smaller and better for it. It is a tragic  cat and mouse thriller where the viewer understands the overall theme of guilt, ambition and loss of identity. It resonates after completing watching it because the film  forces you to ask questions about what you’ve just seen.

What was the “continuous hell”  that the two leads needed to battle?

The Departed is good while drinking a beer.

Infernal Affairs is good when drinking a dark red wine.


Andy Lau as Inspector Lau

Tony Cheung as Yan

Eric Tsang as Sam

Anthony Wong as SP Shing


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