For those not aware (like me), the recent Martin Scorsese powerhouse The Departed is a remake of an HK flick called Infernal Affairs. My buddy Ben in Japan tipped me off and even got me a copy of Infernal Affairs because he's cool (and knew I would like it). Anyways he wanted to know how the US version panned out, and perhaps you do, too-- so here's just a lift from one of our recent e-mail back-and-forths. BTW, I saw Infernal Affairs first and then went and saw The Departed.
-- Wicked SPOILERS --
You said that IA was part of a series, and you didn't know how many movies The Departed covered. Well as far as I can tell it's a direct remake of IA. And it was 2.5 hours long, to boot. The plot is exactly the same, as are most all major characters. Now I have to say The Departed is a really good movie. Scorsese knows his territory here and he cast the fucking hell out of it. I'm really surprised they didn't find a part for Deniro because he's really the only one missing in a movie like this. But the thing is, I also know they cast the hell out of IA, I mean it's Tony, Andy, and company after all.
The movie starts the same way, in cadet school, with flash backs to how they were from different backgrounds. In IA the two adult cops actually meet early on, but in The Departed they don't meet until after the crime boss dies.
The biggest differences are the weight of the roles. Since the crime boss is Jack Nicholson, I expected he'd have a much larger part in things and he does. He's kind of the main character alot of the story revolves around and connects to.
Another big difference is the shrink, she's barely in IA but it's a major role in The Departed. And they mix it up by removing bad cop's (Lau/Damon) girlfriend and making it the shrink. Then of course good cop (Leung/DiCaprio) has to see her and they get involved so there is the hollywood love triangle. Gone also is good cop's former lover (and implied daughter).
It was real funny to see what was lifted directly, and there's alot. The scene with the arm cast happens much earlier in The Departed, which I thought was better in IA because it's after the first raid and means more. The first raid is almost exactly the same, but without the morse code angle (too bad I thought that was a nice touch in IA that really pays off in the finale). The scene where bad cop pretends to be the lawyer is there, but it was way cooler in IA. The scene at the theater where good cop/bad cop almost see each other is exactly the same. So is the detail with the writing on the envelope and it's payoff, but in The Departed it's really blunt. IA handled it more believably I think, but I think it's because it's easier to believe that you can mistake a chinese symbol rather than an Irish guy not knowing how to spell.
The ending is almost scene for scene, right up to the rooftop and the elevator, to the clapping back at the department-- even the secretary handing him a drink!! But The Departed has one extra very last twist-- and it's not the HK alternate ending. Necessary, unnecessary? Eh.
The Departed is much more violent than IA. No where near as violent as Gangs of NY, tho (which I did not enjoy). It's a thuggy, Goodfellas type violence, mostly to set up DiCaprio's character as fucked up as possible. In IA good cop has been undercover for 9 years (!), in The Departed it's only 1.
So yeah The Departed is a really good movie, and 99% of people just aren't going to know what came before. I'm sure there'll be all kinds of oscar stuff thrown about. But ultimately I felt IA had more... nuance, if you get me. It wasn't afraid to have the unconnected minor characters and I really enjoyed the little details here and there.
One thing that is notable for The Departed, however-- It is very noticeable that this is a contemporary film, for America, at least. Primarily because of the role of the cell phones. Some people say computers instantly date films but they have a ubiquitousness about them that I think is pretty harmless. Lots of modern thrillers involve a major computer detail or two. The cell phone is certainly prevalent in our society but it was a little odd to see a Scorsese movie revolve around it. I just wonder how it will appear years down the road, possibly invisible because cell phones will be a staple. Goodfellas was set in a specific time period, but it could have had cell phones and been the same movie. I don't know quite how to put it, I just noticed it is all. It's weird because it was more natural to accept the HK version for whatever reason, but here you've got Jack Nicholson and Martin Sheen texting with the kids. I think because of this, because of the cast and the director and the overall quality of the movie, it is one of those film notables that won't be recognized until much farther down the road.