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Infernal Affairs II [Blu-ray]

(aka "Mou gaan dou II")

 

(Andrew Lau & Alan Mak, 2003)

 

 

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Infernal Affairs Blu-Ray Trilogy:

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: Media Asia Films, Raintree Pictures, Eastern Dragon Film & Basic Pictures

Blu-ray: MegaStar (Hong Kong)

 

Disc:

Region: A

Runtime: 119 min

Chapters: 20

Size: 25 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: May 8, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC

 

Audio:

Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1, Cantonese DD EX 5.1, Mandarin DD EX 5.1

 

Subtitles:

Feature: Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, English. Extras: None.

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentary by cast & crew

• Trailers in HD

• Making of . . .

• Confidential File

 

 

The Film: 8.5
The blockbuster thriller, Infernal Affairs, almost single-handedly revived the Hong Kong gangster film back in 2002. It was so successful that it spawned two back-to-back sequels before Martin Scorsese's The Departed was able to get the drop on a largely unsuspecting English-speaking public. The action of Infernal Affairs II provides considerable backstory to the first movie, fleshing out the early days of the two young moles. At its release, many regretted the loss of Tony Leung and Andy Lau and - unfairly, I thought - damned the sequel for their absence. The relative youth and inexperience of Shawn Yu and Edison Chen, who play the Leung and Lau characters: Yan (think: DiCaprio, if it helps) and Ming (ditto: Matt Damon) and was seen as unfortunate.


But IA-II does not put Yan and Ming center stage, as does the first movie. Instead, two of the three principals are Sam, the crime boss played by Eric Tsai (a smarter, slyer version of the Nicholson character), and Inspector Wong, played by Anthony Wong (Martin Sheen). The sequel begins with an informal conversation between the two old adversaries; they respect each other's credentials just as they realize their likely fates. The other major figure to emerge in the second movie is Hau, the new crime boss, played by Francis Ng. It is this trio that concerns us most, while the two young moles provide dynamic fulcrums, as we come to understand what is, what was and what will be.

IA-II is a more complex film than its predecessor; it's denser and faster paced to start, leaving anyone who blinks during the first fifteen minutes in the dust. The sequel is longer and feels it; later events unfold more lyrically, filled in by details of story and production: narrative complexity vs. action set-pieces. Indeed, there is a considerable amount of conversation in the sequel.

On another hand, some will find that there is one reference too many to one or another Godfather films, to which the Infernal Affairs trilogy will necessarily be compared (most unfortunate). But unlike more typical sequels, IA-II is given at least as high production values. In its Blu-ray incarnation, it looks and sounds better, more polished.

[By the way, four important actors from this movie (Edison Chen, Shawn Yu, Anthony Wong and Chapman To) all found their way into MegaStar's adaptation of the Japanese manga, Initial D, reviewed HERE on Blu-ray.

[The following is an edited excerpt from the Sensasian.com synopsis]: "After retired Triad boss, "Uncle Kwan" is murdered, the five remaining underbosses gear up to make the first move, should the Kwan family collapse amidst the chaos. The police are on high alert for a bloodbath as they struggle for power. With Uncle Kwan's successor in the balance, and to the surprise of all, Uncle Kwan's son Hau (Francis Ng), rises to the challenge. Well educated and soft spoken, Hau proves to be a ruthless adversary as he becomes his competitors' and the cops' worst nightmare. The cops' only hope is Hau's baby brother and Police Academy dropout, Yan (Shawn Yu).

Excerpt of review from Sensasian.com located HERE

Image:

9 (8~9/10)
The score of 9 indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray DVDs. The score in parentheses represents: first, a value on a ten-point scale for the image in absolute terms; and, second, how that image compares to what I believe is the current best we can expect in the theatre.

In contrast to MegaStar's first foray into high definition DVDs, which happened to be the original Infernal Affairs, this transfer is closer to demonstration quality. Improvements in image are correspondingly greater than in the first movie in comparison to MegaStar's R0 DVD, which showed a moderate degree of softness, even for 480i material. Wheareas the original Infernal Affairs, even on Blu-ray, had a relatively desaturated image, this is not the case here – at least not often. MegaStar's R) SD was very good indeed, the Blu-ray is brighter, without seeming overbrightened.
 

 

 SD TOP vs. Blu-Ray BOTTOM

 

 

SD TOP vs. Blu-Ray BOTTOM

 

 

SD TOP vs. Blu-Ray BOTTOM

 

 

SD TOP vs. Blu-Ray BOTTOM 

 

 

SD TOP vs. Blu-Ray BOTTOM 

 

 

SD TOP vs. Blu-Ray BOTTOM 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 9/9
Since I first reviewed the Blu-ray of Infernal Affairs, I've installed a respectable surround system. I had previously noted that in 2-channel mode: while the soundtrack was not of the kind of demonstration quality of the best "Hollywood" blockbusters, it was more than adequate to the task. But more to the point, the mix was a huge improvement over MegaStar's own R0 SD. Contrast, dynamics, frequency extension and clarity are all much better on the Blu-ray.

The music is by Chan Kwong Wing, who more recently composed the scores for Flash Point and The Warlords. Quite naturally, there are thematic and stylistic similarities for all three parts of the trilogy – one being that it functions as a part of the audio mix as much as provides mood. Compared to his work for the original film, this new audio mix is more in your face, more vigorous. The music itself is a fascinating amalgam of Western, Latin and Oriental influences. There are even Godfathery intonations from time to time. And of the three films, it has the best presentation on Blu-ray: more enveloping, more involving – even in the Dolby Digital mix.

 

Operations: 6
May I be the first to congratulate MegaStar for upgrading its logo (always an eyesore on their 480i DVDs) to HD. The expandable chapter thumbnails are clear and monochromatic – a nice touch, I thought. The Smart Menus (in English and Chinese) are straightforward and easy to use, except that just when it seems that all is well, we find that we can't return from the bonus features by clicking on either the top menu or by skipping chapters. Good thing my PS3 has a super fast forward scan.

Subtitles: 5
Obviously, my praise of MegaStar's subtitling on the first Infernal Affairs and my distress at their subsequent effort for Initial D went unheeded. (Should I be surprised!) The subtitling appeared below the frame on the original Blu-ray, but partly in and partly below for the sequels. On the other hand, I noticed fewer typos on this new release.
 

 

Extras: 5
The extras are all in Chinese without subtitles, as they are on MegaStar's R0 DVD box set and as they were on MegaStar's BRD of Infernal Affairs. The extras included here also appear on the North American R1 release from Genius Products, which are subtitled in English. The "Making of . . " documentary isn't nearly as entertaining as the "Confidential File," which is really a "making of" short of about 6 minutes (without commentary). In any case they are not very difficult to follow even without subtitles; but if you must know what is being said, you could always rent the U.S. SD edition. Both of these featurettes are in SD and move readily from weak letterboxed to 4:3 images. I should mention that the five trailers are all in HD, most interesting will probably be the one for The Warlords, Jet Li's latest epic – not so much a martial arts film, as an ancient war movie: The monochromatic image is stunning on BRD – something like 300, if you like that sort of thing.
 

 

 

Bottom line: 9
Metacritic.com gave the original film a score of 75, but didn’t give the sequel the time of day. Rotten Tomatoes gave the original a score a 95 with 59 precincts reporting, but only 8 critics checked in with a score for the sequel, which received a statistically irrelevant 75. I thought rather highly of it the first time I saw it, and even more so last night on Blu-ray, which is gorgeous – much better looking and sounding than the original movie for demo or submersion. Thumbs Up.

Leonard Norwitz
June 1st, 2008

 

 

CLICK logos to order:

 

 

Infernal Affairs Blu-Ray Trilogy:

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

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