Infernal Affairs (2002) – Undercover police officer Chan (Tony Leung) enters the triad at the same time that low level gangster Lau (Andy Lau) becomes a mole in the HK police academy. Years later, as both the police and the triads escalate conflicts, both are pressed by their respective bosses to track down the mole on the opposite side. As their covers are now their lives, will they discover that they’ve sold their souls to the devil?
The Departed (2006) – Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) becomes a mole for the Irish mob and rises through the ranks of the Boston Police Department as Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) forms connections in the criminal organization as an undercover officer having earned the trust of mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). When a sting reveals the presence of moles in each side, Costigan and Sullivan are ordered to find their counterpart.
Directed by Andrew Lau and featuring an absolutely stellar cast, Infernal Affairs is fast paced, well acted, and was one of the biggest breaths of fresh air in a Hong Kong cinema industry that had stagnated for a number of years. Its cat and mouse tale is taut and results in an absolutely stunning picture with an ending that is haunting and totally unexpected. Martin Scorcese’s The Departed is equally star studded and transplants the major plot points to Boston but loses the karmic bend in place of grittiness and raw fury onscreen. Winner of the Best Picture Oscar, it is widely acclaimed and is most certainly a terrifically entertaining film with powerhouse performances.
Verdict: In the end, Infernal Affairs gets the edge for the doozy of a finale and much more restrained acting of Lau and Leung which seems more fitting for the role of moles and undercover. Make no mistake however, The Departed is one great film which doesn’t bastardize the original but intelligently takes this story of police and organized crime and, care of a master director, transplants it to the United States’ own rich culture and history on the subject.