Film / The Infernal Affairs Trilogy

The three Infernal Affairs films are incredibly twisty cops vs. Triads films set in Hong Kong between 1991 and 2003. The first film, set in 2002, is based around the stories of two mirrored infiltrators. Chen Wing Yan is an undercover cop in the gang of the chubby, Affably Evil gangster Hon Sam. Yan's handler is Chessmaster senior cop Wong, who doesn't realise that his most trusted underling, Lau Kin Ming, is actually a mole planted in the police force by Sam years before. As Wong's attempts to bring Sam down reach their endgame, Yan and Ming both find their covers in danger of being blown and are both ordered by their pretended bosses to catch the "moles" who are actually themselves.

The second film is a Prequel that tells the story of how Sam rose to his position in the first film, and the unexpected roles that Yan, Ming, and Wong played in that. The third film is a sequel that follows the stories of the surviving characters from the first film, and also tells a flashback story set just before it. It introduces two new significant characters to replace the dead people: Yeung, a smooth and sinister, possibly corrupt, cop from the Security branch; and Shen, a mysterious gangster from the Chinese mainland.

Elements of all three films were streamlined into the remake as The Departed, which transferred the action to Boston and made the Triad equivalents Irish-American gangsters (with a bit of Irish Mob mythology about Whitey Bulger tossed in), and won the 2006 Best Picture Oscar. In Japan, an episode aired in TBS in 2012 as a remake under the title Double Face - Sennyuu Sosa Hen.

Oh, and the title and the epigrams at the beginnings and ends of the films suggest that Hong Kong is Buddhist Hell and all the characters' lives suck because they're being punished for the sins of their past lives. Or they metaphorically evoke the hells that Yan and Lau are living in as a result of their undercover rules.

The film series provides examples of:

  • And I Must Scream: In the ending of the third film, Ming in a wheelchair paralyzed and in a catatonic state.
  • Being Evil Sucks: If you're a gangster, you will probably end up an utterly corrupt, friendless wreck of a human tormented by guilt over your crimes, and you'll probably die young and unpleasantly.
  • Being Good Sucks: If you're a cop, you know that society is essentially corrupt, that any gangster you manage to put away will get rapidly replaced, and that you'll probably die young and unpleasantly.
  • Big Bad: The first film has Hon Sam, the Triad boss ordering the infiltration.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Dr. Lee's name is a pun on psychologist in Cantonese.
  • Character Tics: Both Yan's tic of tapping his fingers on things, and Ming's of tapping objects he's carrying against his leg as he walks, are plot points.
  • Driven to Suicide: In third film, after Ming inadvertently revealed himself as Sam's mole, he snapped and killed Yeung before gets wounded by Shen. Ming then attempts suicide by shooting himself through his lower jaw, too bad the bullet doesn't fatally wound him.
  • Everything's Louder With Bagpipes: Played at cop funerals.
  • Gambit Pileup: All three films, but especially the plotting in the second film involving Wong, Sam, Sam's wife Mary, and Ngai Wing-Hau.
  • Genre Shift: The first two films are gangster movies, the third is a Mind Screw psychological horror.
  • Here We Go Again: the third film ends with a flashback to the period of the first film that finishes with Yan and Ming unknowingly meeting each other in a hi-fi store - the scene that began the main action of the first film after an establishing pre-credit sequence.
  • If I Can't Have You: Lau sold the first Mary out to the Ngais when she refused to return his romantic attentions.
  • The Mole: The two leads are the most obvious example. Shen is an undercover cop, and Billy acts as a mole for the triads.
  • Napoleon Delusion: In the third film, Ming turns out to have gone insane and to believe that he is now Yan.
  • No, Mr. Bond, I Expect You to Dine: In a morally-inverted example, Wong likes doing this to Sam whenever he's arrested.
  • Oh Crap!: Wong, when Del Piero manages to halt the elevator he's in.
  • One Steve Limit: Exception with the two Marys.
  • The Cuckoo Lander Was Right: All through the three films, Keung has always been the one to point out undercover cops. A few times, he has also made throwaway comments pointing to Yan as a cop.
  • The Purge: The massacre of the Ngai capos in the second film, and Ngai's family near the end of the movie.
  • The Scapegoat: Billy. Ming pins everything on him at the beginning of the third film.
  • Unperson: Ming erases Yan's police file after Yan discovered Ming's double identity as Sam's mole.

Alternative Title(s): Infernal Affairs