Directors – Andrew Lau, Alan Mak – 2002 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 98m
Two moles: a cop undercover in the triads and a triad undercover in the cops – reviewed for What’s On In London to coincide with UK cinema release, Friday, February 27th 2004
Hong Kong thrillers are known less for clarity of plot than for bravura action sequences popularised by The Matrix (Larry and Andy Wachowski, 1999). But this latest cops and triads entry manages an interesting twist on the theme of the undercover operative. Or rather, in this case, two undercover operatives.
Ming (Fulltime Killer’s Andy Lau) is a triad member commanded at age 18 by Triad boss Sam (Eric Tsang) to become a mole on the police force. The latter’s tip-offs about rival gangs have over a decade taken Ming’s career through Criminal Intelligence Bureau sergeant to possible head of Internal Affairs investigating… informational leaks to the Triads. Himself!
Yan (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai from every other Hong Kong movie you’ve ever seen) is Ming’s nemesis: Sam’s enforcer and a Triad member since his teenage years. But Yan is actually an undercover cop, a fact known only to his recruiter Superintendent Wong (Hard Boiled’s Anthony Wong).
Both moles are increasingly unhappy with their double lives. But neither is in a position to easily extricate himself.
Co-directed with flair by Andrew Lau (whose Young And Dangerous franchise and Stormriders effects epic revitalised respectively the Hong Kong gangster movie and special effects fantasy epic) and writer-director Alan Mak, this is terrific stuff. For a generic Hong Kong entry, it fares better than you’d expect in getting under the psychological skin of its two mirrored characters. An unrecognisable Leung is typically impressive; Lau gives a career performance. Reinventing the Hong Kong actioner yet again, it shows to be far from dead a national genre widely believed defunct. A treat: highly recommended.
Trailer (no subtitles):