Review by Leonard Norwitz
Theatrical: Media Asia Films, Raintree Pictures,
Eastern Dragon Film & Basic Pictures
Blu-ray: MegaStar (Hong Kong)
Runtime: 119 min
Size: 25 GB
Case: Standard Blu-ray case
Release date: May 8, 2008
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1
Video codec: AVC
Cantonese DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1, Cantonese DD
EX 5.1, Mandarin DD EX 5.1
Feature: Traditional Chinese, Simplified
Chinese, English. Extras: None.
• Audio Commentary by cast & crew
• Trailers in HD
• Making of . . .
• Confidential File
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
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
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,
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
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.
TOP vs. Blu-Ray BOTTOM
SD TOP vs.
SD TOP vs.
SD TOP vs.
SD TOP vs.
SD TOP vs.
Audio & Music:
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
June 1st, 2008
logos to order:
Infernal Affairs Blu-Ray Trilogy: