Both on DVD.
I didn’t see Infernal Affairs in the theater—few Americans did; it played for a matter of days on just a handful of screens nationwide, no doubt to fulfill contractual demands connected to the purchase of remake rights—but I read about the Hong Kong thriller, Netflixed it as soon as it became available on DVD, and absolutely loved it. The smart, relentless plot, the exquisitely crafted parallels, the powerful central performances—it was already great, and I cringed to think of it being remade.
So when that remake, The Departed, came out in theaters last year, I ignored it, despite its great cast, despite the good reviews, and despite the fact that Martin Scorsese had directed it. Seeing The Departed, I feared, would be a betrayal of Infernal Affairs, which I already served as an overeager missionary. (“Ignore the DVD case! I know it’s cheesy, but it doesn’t have a damn thing to do with the movie. Which is great! Tony Leung! You saw Hero, right? No? Well, he’s amazing. And everything intertwines so perfectly. It’s so much fun! Really! So you want to borrow it? Oh, The Bourne Identity? Well, yeah, that’s fun, too, of course, but it’s on TV all the time. You sure you don’t want to watch Infernal Affairs instead?”)
But TiVo recently recorded The Departed on its own, and I came down with a miserable cold (which, incidentally, is why it’s taking me so long to get anything written), and I thought, what the hell. It’s Martin Scorsese. Infernal Affairs will understand.
And now I’m torn. Having seen the American remake and revisited the Hong Kong original, I have to admit that The Departed is sleeker and more polished that Infernal Affairs. (To be fair, few directors can go toe-to-toe with Scorsese.) But just as back-to-back viewing forced me to face some of the flaws of my beloved cops-and-criminals flick, it also illuminated some of the original’s strengths.