Caught The Departed last night and I have to say, its one abject failure of a remake. I was expecting it to be good, and truth be told, I wanted it to be good because it is based on Hongkong’s Infernal Affairs, quite possibly one of the best gang flicks of all time. It is one of my personal favorites due to its brilliantly conceived plot of gang versus police, replete with paranoia and deceit. It is also quite possibly, one of the most intelligent films I have ever seen (second to Memento).
Where do I even begin? There are just so many things to criticize about. Firstly, the utterly realistic characters in Infernal Affairs have been reduced to one dimensional vectors that merely carry the plot forward. Matt Damon’s character was reduced to a bad ass villain and was almost gleefully ridding anyone who knew of his identity, with no hint of remorse even till the very end. In Infernal Affairs however, at the end of the film, Andy Lau truly wanted to be a good guy but obviously, circumstances did not allow him to, and therefore he was forced to kill the gang boss to protect his identity. He subsequently went crazy over the guilt of killing the police informant (Tony Leung, or Leornado in Departed). Infernal Affairs ended brilliantly because Andy Lau’s character survived it all with no one knowing his true identity. He could therefore assume his role of a high-ranking police officer, but was ridden with guilt and constantly reminded of the people who died because of him. It was really tragic and you could almost sympathize with his character. And what’s with the ending of The Departed?!! Do all Hollywood films have to have perfect fairy tale endings where the bad guy has to die? And even if he has to die, does it have to conclude with an abrupt scene that lasts 30secs, and not to mention, totally cheesy and lame. It seems like a quick way out to conclude the story. The climax at the lift in the abandoned building was also unintentionally funny as body counts skyrocketed as people just started dying ridiculously. The reaction that people had in that scene in Infernal Affairs was true shock?’Oh my god!’. The reaction in Departed was quite the opposite ? people started laughing.
Also, the strange and awkward friendship between the police informant’s boss and the gang boss was completely removed in the Departed. It was so enjoyable watching how the 2 former friends who are currently on opposite ends of the law, try to outplay each other in a full-fledged war of wits and power, but with grace as a result of their friendship in the past. This was COMPLETELY omitted in the Hollywood version. And also, there was a lack of tension between the police force and the gangs. Martin Sheen seems almost weak and hapless against Jack Nicholson and Nicholson himself appears barely sinister and intelligent. Another stupid omission was the friendship between the police informant and his boss, which was meticulously staged in Infernal Affairs, and culminated in a tragic climax when the boss fell off the building and landed right in front of the informant. This scene was attempted in Departed but failed miserably when Leornado tried to look sad when his boss died. There was no friendship to speak of between these 2 characters in Departed!!!
The movie also tries way too hard to entertain. The crazy antics of Jack Nicholson is reminiscent of his character in Anger Management. Yes, Anger management, that rubbish of a comedy. And I do not understand why there are so much sexual references in the movie. There is sex, women and porno everywhere in the movie and is completely unnecessary and downright insulting. Gritty realism is not achieved by dumping sex scenes in the movie.
I can go on and on and criticizing about almost every single aspect in the movie (like how unnecessary the role of the psychiatrist in the Departed was, but completely pivotal in Infernal Affairs etc.), and might as well write a thesis on this movie. To conclude, there was not a single scene of tension nor was it ever moving or exciting. In fact, i found it more funny than anything else. The acting was not particularly great as well despite a rather stellar cast.
Infernal Affairs was an intricate and convoluted plot of deceit, lies, friendship, paranoia and love, at the hands of skillful directors who carefully stage memorable scenes and powerful climaxes ? almost everything that Departed was not, despite an almost identical script. The critics are REALLY WRONG on this one. It is a complete failure of a remake, and even without comparison to the original Hongkong version, it is still a ridicule of an otherwise excellent plot. The editing was also fragmented and confusing, and coupled with horrendous pacing, the film gets progressively frustrating. Martin Scorsese has effectively removed everything that was so good about the original. Trust me, save your money and time, and watch Infernal Affairs, even if you have watched it already.