6 months before his death, we meet up with the undercover cop Yan (Tony Leung) in the aftermath of a big fight. Yan has more or less wrecked a massage parlour, defending his triad buddy Keung (Chapman To), in a simple argument. His real boss, Superintendent Wong (Anthony Wong), forces him to undergo psychotherapy to control his rage. He refuses, but faced with possible jail time he eventually agrees.
The death of Yan is ruled fair play, by the police departments internal investigation, and Inspector Lau (Andy Lau) returns to duty, temporarily assigned administrative work, pending a return to Internal Affairs Division.
The department is still looking for the late crime boss Sams mole.
Following the death of several other officers, now known to be moles, suspicion arises that the big mole is trying tie up loose ends by killing all the other moles.
Laus big problem now, is making sure theres no information about him anywhere, to tie him to Sam. He desperately wants to leave his past behind, and be a cop again. No method is too shady for him, to reach this goal.
Enter Superintendent Yeung (Leon Lai), a cool, calm and collected policeman, who s even more ruthless than Lau.
Lau immediately begins to suspect Yeung. Is he also a mole? Does he plan to take down Lau? Or is he merely out to score some extra cash for his retirement fund? Lau begins to investigate...
Meanwhile back in 2002, Yan finally has his first session with the beautiful psychiatrist Dr. Lee (Kelly Chen). Though he initially sabotages Lees every attempt to reach him, he soon discovers that hes actually able to relax in her company and forget his miserable life. But his boss Sam (Eric Tsang) is never more than a phone call away. Sam is about to go into serious business with two Chinese gangsters, and hes prepared to sacrifice whatever, and whoever, it takes!
The third installment in the Infernal Affairs trilogy is without a doubt the weakest - which is not to say that its bad, its just not as good as the two other films.
Once again the Godfather parallel is applicable. Did we really need a third film? No. Does it improve the two other films? Not really. Does it make them less than they were before? Absolutely not.
The only thing missing from Infernal Affairs I and Infernal Affairs II is Laus comeuppance. At first it seems that the sole reason Infernal Affairs III exists is to grant us closure in this matter. It feels like the rest of the story is merely there to fill out the running time (its not, though, but well get back to that later).
The film jumps back and forth between the two time periods. No reason to get alarmed yet, so did Godfather II, and it worked beautifully.
The reason Godfather II worked was because it covered the beginning of an era, and the end of an era. All the wishes and dreams of the young Don Corleone, is put in sharp contrast by the failed attempts of Michael Corleone, to control the family the same way his father did.
Infernal Affairs III, however, covers the beginning of the end before the middle, and the bit after the original end, which is now the middle.... and no, theres no cool way of saying that, and it doesnt really work.
As for the story in the 2003 scenes - Lau and Yeung chasing each other - its not very interesting. Basically I spent the entire film just wishing somebody would put a bullet though Laus head, and hit Yeung on the other side. Even the solid premise gangsters going undercover in the police department is on the verge of turning ridiculous, because suddenly theres a whole batch of moles.
The script lacks the intensity of the two previous outings. Dont get me wrong there are plenty of good scenes - The ones where Yan sabotages his psych sessions are particularly funny - but for every good scene, theres a pointless one, where it seems the filmmakers are just treading water.
Infernal Affairs III is still a quality product, but it pales when compared to the other two films.
Infernal Affairs III sees the return of Andy Lau and Tony Leung.
Leung, who was so brilliant in the first film, is left to his own devices in this one. We know why Yan joined the force. We know how he died. We know pretty much everything thats important about him, so whats left for Leung? Filling in the blanks of his background story. Hardly rewarding work for an actor. I wish the film had used his connection to Dr. Lee better. I like the idea of the undercover agent who sees a shrink because thats the only place he can sleep properly.
Kelly Chen, who also appeared briefly in the original film, returns as Dr. Lee, with more screentime. I loved Chen in Tokyo Raiders and Anna Magdalena, shes great when she gets to goof around, but here shes stuck in an office most of the time. A shame. Especially since Chen and Leung have such a good chemistry.
Andy Lau on the other hand gets to run around looking frustrated, but the film sticks him with an annoying subplot, which threatens to ruin his character completely. His performance in this film is not as detailed as the one he gave in the first film. Too bad.
Yeung is really a snake. From the word go, its obvious that hes up to no good. His pretty boy looks just makes him more menacing. But Leon Lai left me confused. Is he cool as a cucumber, or just a bad actor? Thats a rhetoric question of course, since Ive come across Lai before and know him to be a fine actor, if somewhat limited in range. He plays the part of Yeung SO cool, and occasionally it seem like he doesnt play at all, but just stares at some point next to the camera.
Infernal Affairs III has one serious problem: Theres no good guy we can root for. Theres not much point in putting money on Yan we know where hell end up, and weve already said our goodbyes to him, with the other two films. That leaves only Lau and Yeung. And since they are both creeps, and deserve whats coming to them, theres nobody left that we can sympathize with.
It takes the film close to 90 minutes before it reveals that the whole story actually has a point. Everything is connected to the events in the past. Only in the last moments of the final act does the film reach its full potential.
The film adds another layer to the story, but the question remains, was that really necessary? In my opinion, no.
While the ending is more or less satisfying, and nicely wraps up the trilogy, the process of getting there is a little rough.
Infernal Affairs III can easily be skipped, but if you liked the first and second film, chances are youll want to see this one as well. Do yourself a favor. Lower your expectations just a tad. Forget how utterly brilliant the other films were, and see this one for what it is: Just a little something to fill out the gaps.