Craig: The Post’s Vanessa Farquharson said of the 2004 film, which The Departed is based on: “Infernal Affairs may be the lamest-titled film to hit theatres this year, but will probably be the only one of its kind that doesn’t sell out with psychological melodrama and clichéd copspeak — if anything, it at least deserves bigger profits than the upcoming Hollywood remake.”
This remake business is always a bit tricky. On the one hand I remember being horrified at Bridget Fonda and Dermot McDumbass in Point of No Return, a truly awful remake of La Femme Nikita, one of my favourite films. But I liked what Cameron Crowe did with Vanilla Sky, a remake of Abre Los Ojos, which oddly also starred Penelope Cruz. Scorsese, of course, updated Cape Fear and paid homage to a number of classic Hollywood films in The Aviator. But this is the first time he’s tried his hand at remaking a film from another country and culture. Since I haven’t yet seen Infernal Affairs I can’t really comment, but I’d still like to hear your comments about whether this was a good idea. I suppose you could make the case that The Departed will get more people to watch the original, but isn’t this a bit backward? What is the recipe for good remakes? Is simply switching the setting from Hong Kong to Boston enough?
Tracey: What, no mention of director Leonard Nimoy’s stellar work turning Trois Hommes et un Couffin into Three Men and a Baby? It’s interesting that we focus on The Departed as a remake. I’m not suggesting it’s anything else, but I wonder how many people in the multiplex, cinema buffs aside, realize Scorsese’s flick is based on an apparently great Hong King thriller (I haven’t seen it either).
And even if they do know, does that affect the way they rate the movie? I came to The Departed having heard of Infernal Affairs and that’s about it. And I can’t say I’m any more interested in seeing it now, although I’m sure it’s no less deserving of praise. Perhaps if The Departed hadn’t been such a triumph, I’d be more inclined to rent its precursor. There’s obviously more to foreign-film remakes than location switching, although Scorsese’s decision to cast Boston in this case proved insightful. But how do you judge when the originals are seen so seldom here? And is there really any point in doing so anyway?
Ultimately, Scorsese has made a thrilling genre piece that stands on its own.
Richard: Remakes are a Hollywood tradition. Moviemakers have been recycling ideas and remaking movies for almost as long as they have been threading film through cameras. The Maltese Falcon’s story was a two-time hand-me-down before a third version made Bogart a star, proving that while most remakes aren’t successful — think The Omen, Mighty Joe Young or Psycho — they can occasionally triumph. I think Scorsese’s re-do of Infernal Affairs actually outdoes the original.
William Monahan’s script borrows heavily on the Hong Kong film for structure, but ups the ante in almost every other way. His dialogue is sharp, acerbic and funny. Scorsese seems really connected to the material and his actors, in several cases drawing surprising award- calibre performances out of them — I’m thinking Marky Mark here. The movie hits all the right re-make notes. It’s well cast, well directed and uses the source material as a starting point, paying homage to it, with slavishly adhering to it. Will it get more people to rent Infernal Affairs? I don’t know, but perhaps it will lead to a Martin Scorsese renaissance in Hong Kong.
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