Infernal Affairs

Not to be confused with the 1990 American film Internal Affairs.
For the album by the Danish dance group Infernal, see Infernal Affairs (album). For the film series, see Infernal Affairs (film series).
Infernal Affairs

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Andrew Lau
Alan Mak
Produced by Andrew Lau
Written by Alan Mak
Felix Chong
Starring Andy Lau
Tony Leung
Anthony Wong
Eric Tsang
Music by Chan Kwong-wing
Cinematography Andrew Lau
Lai Yiu-fai
Edited by Danny Pang
Curran Pang
Distributed by Media Asia Distribution
Release dates
  • 12 December 2002 (2002-12-12)
Running time
101 minutes
Country Hong Kong
Language Cantonese
Budget US$6,428,966[1]
Box office HK$55,057,176
Infernal Affairs
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Literal meaning "Unceasing Path"

Infernal Affairs is a 2002 Hong Kong crime-thriller film directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak. It tells the story of a police officer who infiltrates a triad, and a police officer secretly working for the same gang. The Chinese title means "The Unceasing Path", a reference to Avici, the lowest level of Hell in Buddhism, where one endures suffering incessantly. The English title is a word play, combining the law enforcement term "internal affairs" – typically the division of any law enforcement agency that would be responsible for (among other things) finding a mole – with the adjective "infernal", meant in this case as a reference not to fires or infernos in general, but specifically to the inferno of Hell ("Inferno" being the Italian word for "Hell"). Thus, the English title is both a phonetic pun and – like the Chinese title – an allusion to a place or condition of eternal suffering. Infernal Affairs was followed by Infernal Affairs II and Infernal Affairs III.

Pre-release publicity focused on its star-studded cast (Andy Lau, Tony Leung, Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Kelly Chen and Sammi Cheng), although the film also received critical acclaim for its original plot and its concise and swift storytelling style.

The film had been selected as the Hong Kong entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 76th Academy Awards but it was not nominated. Miramax Films acquired the United States distribution rights of this film and gave it a limited US theatrical release in 2004.

Infernal Affairs was remade[2] by Martin Scorsese in 2006 as The Departed, which went on to win several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture.


Infernal Affairs focuses on a police officer named Chen Wing-yan, who goes undercover into a triad, and a triad member Lau Kin-ming, who infiltrates the Hong Kong Police Force. Each mole has been planted by the rival organisation to gain an advantage in intelligence over the other side. The more the moles become involved in their undercover lives, the more issues they have to cope with.

The prologue opens with the introduction of triad boss Hon Sam, who sends a number of young gangsters to the police academy as moles, among whom include a young Lau. Concurrently, a young Chen joins the police force but is seemingly expelled from the academy even though he manages to impress Superintendent Wong Chi-shing. In reality, Chen has become an undercover agent reporting only to Wong. Over the course of ten years, Chen experiences great stress from his undercover work while Lau quickly rises through the ranks in the police department. The film begins with a meeting between Chen and Lau in a hi-fi store without either of them knowing the other's identity.

Wong and his team interrupt a deal between Hon Sam and a Thai cocaine dealer after receiving a tip-off from Chen using Morse code. However, Lau alerts Hon, giving him enough time to order his minions to dispose of the cocaine, eliminating solid evidence of the drug deal. After the incident, Wong and Hon are both aware that they each have a mole within their respective organisations, placing them in a race against time to root out the other mole. Later, Chen sees Hon conversing with Lau at a cinema but does not see Lau's face clearly; he ultimately fails to capture Lau. By this time, both Chen and Lau are struggling with their double identities – Chen starts losing faith in himself as a cop after being a gangster for ten years; Lau becomes more accustomed to the life of a police officer and he wants to erase his criminal background.

At their next meeting, Wong intends to pull Chen out of undercover work for fear of his safety. They are unaware that Lau has his subordinate, CIB Inspector B, tracking him. Meanwhile, Hon sends "Crazy" Keung and other henchmen to confront them after receiving intel from Lau. Inspector B informs Lau and sends an OCTB squad to save Wong. Chen flees from the building using a crane while Wong sacrifices himself to save him by distracting Hon's men. Wong is beaten and thrown off the roof by the gangsters. As the police close in, a shootout ensues in which several gangsters are killed. Keung drives Chen away from the scene, but later dies from a mortal gunshot wound. It is reported on the news that Keung himself was an undercover cop; Hon assumes that he was the mole and that Chen killed him to protect the triad.

Lau retrieves Wong's cell phone and contacts Chen, with both of them agreeing to foil a drug deal by Hon. The plan succeeds and many of Hon's men are arrested, while Lau betrays Hon and kills him. Everything seems to have returned to normal – Chen can revert to his true identity as a cop, while Lau has erased his criminal connections by eliminating Hon's triad. However, back at police headquarters, Chen discovers that Lau was the mole and leaves immediately. Lau, realising what has happened, erases Chen's file from the police database. Chen spends an evening with his therapist, Dr. Lee Sum-yee, with whom he has fallen in love. He sends to Lau a compact disc with a recording that Hon kept between himself and Lau; the disc is inadvertently intercepted by Lau's girlfriend, Mary.

Chen and Lau meet on the same rooftop where Wong was killed earlier. Chen disarms Lau without resistance and holds a gun to Lau's head, as a rebuke to Lau's plea for forgiveness and request to remain as a cop. Inspector B arrives on the scene shortly and orders Chen to release Lau. Chen holds Lau as a hostage at gunpoint and backs into an elevator, but upon moving his head from behind Lau he is suddenly shot in the head by B. B then reveals to Lau that he is also a mole planted by Hon. As they take the lift down to the lobby, Lau kills B out of his desire to eradicate traces of his past, become a "good guy" cop, and end the mole hunt.

The original ending climaxes with Lau identifying himself to the police as one of them. Lee discovers records revealing Chen as the undercover officer; B is blamed of being the mole within the force and the case is closed. Lau salutes Chen at his funeral, with Cheung and Lee present as well. A flashback reaffirms the point that Lau wished he had taken a different route in life. In mainland China, an alternate ending for the film was created, in which Lau exits the elevator and is informed by Cheung that the police have found evidence that he was a mole. Lau hands them his badge and is arrested without protest. The sequel, Infernal Affairs III, uses the original ending instead of the alternate one.



Infernal Affairs was released on 12 December 2002 to Hong Kong Theaters to universal critical acclaim. Review tallying website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 57 of the tallied 60 reviews were positive, for a score of 95% and a certification of "fresh". Infernal Affairs won seven out of the sixteen awards it was nominated for at the 22nd Hong Kong Film Awards, beating Zhang Yimou's Hero for the Best Film award. It also won Best Picture awards in the Golden Horse Awards and the Golden Bauhinia Awards among other awards too. It was ranked No. 30 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema" in 2010.[3] It is considered to be one of the best films of all time and is the highest ranked Hong Kong film on Internet Movie Database's Top 250 movies list.

Box office

Infernal Affairs has grossed HK$55,057,176 in Hong Kong and USD$169,659 in North America.

Awards and nominations

List of Accolades
Award / Film Festival Category Recipient(s) Result
Udine Far East Film Festival Audience Award Andrew Lau
Alan Mak
Asia Pacific Film Festival Best Sound Kinson Tsang Won
46th Blue Ribbon Awards Best Foreign Language Film Andrew Lau
Alan Mak
Belgian Syndicate of Cinema Critics Grand Prix Nominated
40th Golden Horse Awards Best Picture Won
Best Director Andrew Lau
Alan Mak
Best Actor Tony Leung Won
Best Supporting Actor Anthony Wong Won
Best Sound Effects Kinson Tsang King-Cheung Won
Viewer's Choice Award Won
Best Actor Andy Lau Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Alan Mak
Felix Chong
Best Film Editing Danny Pang
Pang Ching-Hei
Best Cinematography Andrew Lau
Lai Yiu-Fai
Best Art Direction Choo Sung Pong
Wong Ching-Ching
Best Action Choreography Dion Lam Dik-On Nominated
Best Visual Effects Christopher Doyle Nominated
8th Golden Bauhinia Awards Best Picture Won
Best Director Andrew Lau
Alan Mak
Best Actor Tony Leung Won
Best Actor Andy Lau Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Anthony Wong Won
Best Original Screenplay Alan Mak
Felix Chong
9th Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards Film of Merit Won
Best Actor Anthony Wong Won
22nd Hong Kong Film Awards Best Film Won
Best Director Andrew Lau
Alan Mak
Best Screenplay Alan Mak
Felix Chong
Best Actor Tony Leung Won
Best Actor Andy Lau Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Anthony Wong Won
Best Supporting Actor Eric Tsang Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Chapman To Nominated
Best Cinematography Andrew Lau
Lai Yiu-Fai
Best Film Editing Danny Pang
Pang Ching Hei
Best Costume Design Lee Pik-Kwan Nominated
Best Action Choreography Dion Lam Nominated
Best Original Film Score Chan Kwong Wing Nominated
Best Original Film Song Song: "Infernal Affairs"

Composer: Ronald Ng
Lyrics: Albert Leung
Sung by: Tony Leung, Andy Lau

Best Sound Design Kinson Tsang King-Cheung Nominated
Best Visual Effects Christopher Doyle Nominated


The original film score for Infernal Affairs was written and performed by Chan Kwong-wing.

Track listing
No. TitleArtist(s) Length
1. "Entering The Inferno"  Chan Kwong-wing 2:06
2. "If I Were Him"  Chan Kwong-wing 1:36
3. "Goodbye Master"  Chan Kwong-wing 2:18
4. "Who Are You?"  Chan Kwong-wing 2:44
5. "Let Me Quit"  Chan Kwong-wing 1:32
6. "I Dreamt About You"  Chan Kwong-wing 1:23
7. "Salute"  Chan Kwong-wing 1:56
8. "Mission Abort"  Chan Kwong-wing 4:31
9. "I Am A Cop!"  Chan Kwong-wing 3:26
10. "You Are The Only One"  Chan Kwong-wing 1:06
11. "I Want To Be A Good Guy"  Chan Kwong-wing 3:30
12. "Goodbye Master, Goodbye"  Chan Kwong-wing 1:56
13. "The Inferno"  Chan Kwong-wing 1:51

The theme song, Infernal Affairs (無間道), was composed by Ronald Ng, lyrics provided by Albert Leung, and performed in Cantonese and Mandarin by Andy Lau and Tony Leung.

Although not included in the soundtrack, Tsai Chin's (蔡琴) song "Forgotten Times" (《被遺忘的時光》) features prominently in this film as a recurring element of its storyline, and also in its sequels. As well as serving to elucidate the theme of the films, the song plays an important plot function in chronologically connecting various elements of the story. The (a capella) song can be first heard when Chen and Lau meet in a store, as they are analyzing hi-fi equipment.


The success of the film followed with a prequel and sequel. An open-world videogame, titled Sleeping Dogs, was heavily inspired by Infernal Affairs,[4] with the protagonist of the story infiltrating the criminal underworld as an undercover police Sleeping Dogs are developed by United Front Games and published by Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series owner Square Enix.

The movie was listed on LOVEHKFilm's Top 50 Movies of the Decade.[5]


American poster

In 2003, Brad Pitt's production company Plan B Entertainment acquired the rights for a Hollywood remake, named The Departed, which was directed by Martin Scorsese, and starred Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, and Mark Wahlberg, set in Boston, Massachusetts, roughly based on the life of famed Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger. The Departed was released on 6 October 2006 and won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Lau, Tsang, and Cheung parodied the cinema scene to promote the Hong Kong Film Awards. Lau and Tsang, in their respective characters, go through the scene where they meet to gather info on the undercover cop amongst Hon Sam's gang. Lau Kin-ming asks Hon "Why do we always meet in a cinema?", to which Hon answers "It's quiet. No one comes to movies". Cheung comes out from the shadows behind them and says "I don't know...quite a few people watch movies" and we see a slew of Hong Kong celebrities watching various clips of Hong Kong films on the screen. Originally Tony Leung was going to appear but scheduling conflicts led to the recasting.

The 2003 TVB spoof celebrating the Chinese New Year called Mo Ba To (吐氣羊眉賀新春之無霸道), the 2004 comedy film Love Is a Many Stupid Thing by Wong Jing, and the 2004 TVB television drama Shades of Truth were re-writings based on the plot of the film.

In Taiwan SHODA (劉裕銘) and a secondary school student Blanka (布蘭卡) cut and rearranged the original film and inserted new sound tracks to produce their videos Infernal Affairs CD pro2 and Infernal Affairs iPod on the web. The videos had many views and both producers removed their videos after receiving cease and desist letters from the Group Power Workshop Limited (群體工作室), the Taiwan distributor of the film.[6]

Media Asia released a limited edition of eight-DVD set of the Infernal Affairs trilogy in an Ultimate Collectible Boxset (無間道終極珍藏DVD系列(8DVD套裝)) on 20 December 2004. Features included an online game and two Chinese fictional novels of the film series by Lee Muk-Tung (李牧童), titled 無間道I+II小說 ISBN 962-672-259-2 and 無間道III終極無間小說 ISBN 962-672-271-1.

The hi-fi shop scene was later recreated with additions of excerpts of the film to encourage businesses to join the Quality Tourism Services Scheme in Hong Kong.[7]

In 2009, a Korean remake City of Damnation, which was directed by Kim Dong-won was released on 22 January 2009.[8] In 2009, a Telugu remake Homam, which directed and acted by JD Chakravarthy along with Jagapathi Babu was released and became a notable movie. In 2012, Double Face (ダブルフェイス), a Japanese television remake starring Hidetoshi Nishijima was released by TBS and WOWOW.[9] The production aired in two parts: "Police Impersonation" on WOWOW and "Undercover" on TBS.

See also


  1. Infernal Affairs vs. The Departed
  2. "Infernal Affairs vs. the remake, The Departed". Retrieved 23 July 2011.
  3. "The 100 Best Films of World Cinema – 30. Infernal Affairs". Empire.
  6. 陳俍任:電影「無間道」搞怪版始作俑者「CD-PRO2版」作者,接獲在台發行商的警告信,《聯合報》。2004-06-06
  7. "DiscoverHongKong – Interactive Gallery – Video Clips – Index". Archived from the original on 28 July 2008. Retrieved 5 July 2009.
  8. "City of Damnation". Retrieved 22 June 2011.
  9. ダブルフェイス・イントロダクション (TBS Introduction to Double Face). Retrieved 20 September 2012. (Japanese)

External links

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