The Infernal Affairs Trilogy (Hong Kong, 2002-03, Criterion Collection, 3 Blu-rays, NR, 338 min.). The three films, the classic, taut first film, its prequel and a third that fluctuates between the immediate past and the future, revitalized Hong Kong crime drama with bold filmmaking by directors Andrew Lau Wai-keung and Alan Mak, with Mak also writing the scripts with Felix Chong Man-keung. The films tell the story of two competing moles: Chen Wing-yan (Tony Leung Chiu-wai, with Shawn Yue Man-lok playing the younger version), an undercover cop imbedded with the triads for 10 years; and Inspector Lau Kin-ming (Andy Lau Tak-wah, with Edison Chen Koon-hei playing the younger version), a mole for the triads and specifically Boss Hon Sam (Eric Tsang Chi-wai). Often the two are at cross purposes, as in the first film’s early police attempt to take down a cocaine deal between Sam and some Thai suppliers.

The first film, “Infernal Affairs” (2002, 101 min.), is just about perfect. The title refers to the 18th level of hell, which consists of continuous suffering (as one would endure by being undercover for 10 years) as well as the police’s Internal Affairs unit, which is trying to uncover Sam’s mole. Chen, in fact, is tired of being undercover, now working for his third triad boss. Chen only reports to Superintendent Wong Chi Shing (Anthony Wong Chau-sang), the only person who knows his true identity. Meanwhile, Lau is moving into a new apartment with his fiancée Mary (Sammi Cheng).

Complicating things is that both sides know the other has a mole and that Lau is actively seeking who the undercover cop is, while being promoted to Internal Affairs to actually hunt for himself. Another complication, which becomes more evident late in this film and in the other two, is that Sam actually has more than one mole among the police; an early scene from 10 years ago shows Sam designating seven young triad members to become police cadets.

The films are intense character studies, but also with good action sequences. Lau actually has become the thing he wanted to become, a good cop, effective and cool, although events at the end of the first film will shake his psyche going forward. Chen has become a successful gangster, so much so that he fears violence is taking over his life and he would rather have a police desk job. This complexity of the two main roles makes the film compelling, although there also are occasions when one barely escapes detection by the other.

Lau and Chen were in the same cadet class, although Chen was expelled, a ploy to begin is infiltration of the triads. The two actually meet at a stereo store, owned by Sam’s wife Mary (Carina Lau), in the present, but do not recognize each other. Chen starts to develop feelings for his Wong—ordered therapist (Kelly Chen as Dr. Lee Sum Yee), who plays an even bigger role in the third film. This film inspired Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning “The Departed” (2006), which also was based on Boston’s Winter Hill Gang and gangster Whitey Bulger.

The prequel, “Infernal Affairs II” (2003, 119 min.), which the directors and screenwriter says is their favorite of the three films, begins when Lau and Chen are beginning their careers as moles, now played by Edison Chen and Shawn Yue, respectively, as the younger versions. It also reveals previously unsuspected deeper connections between some characters, such as Inspector Wong and gangster Sam having had a friendship, including lunching together at the police station. It is 1991, when Sam asks Lau to become his mole inside the police.

Jumping to 1995, triad head Ngai is assassinated and his son Ngai Wing-hau (Francis Ng Chun-yu) becomes the new boss. Hau happens to be Chen’s half-brother, making Chen the perfect candidate to be the police’s mole. Another unexpected relationship is revealed, as Lau falls in love with his boss Sam’s wife Mary, although she ultimately rejects him. Lau’s rebound-wife-to-be also is named Mary, not a coincidence I would say. Mary Hon actually is the one responsible for the elder Ngai’s death and she is unhappy her husband remains loyal to Ngai Hau.

The film is played out during the political and psychological upheaval of Great Britain handing over Hong Kong to China.

The third film, “Infernal Affairs III” (2003, 118 min.), swings back and forward in time, utilizing the original film’s cast. For Chen’s story, it goes back six months before the first film’s closing. For Yau’s story, it goes 10 months after the same events. As the film progresses, we see Lau’s mental state deteriorate. One scene has him reimagining the first film’s rooftop scene with roles reversed. Meanwhile, a new major character is introduced, Police Security Wing Superintendent Yeung Kam-wing (Leon Lai), who seems to be operating on his own mission that imperils Lau and has some dubious connections outside the force.

Sam is trying out a new arrangement with Shen Liang (Huang Zhizhong), a cocky mainland China gangster who is looking for a partner in Hong Kong.

One nice part about the film, which brings in some humor through Dr. Lee’s efforts to hypnotize Chen, is flashbacks to Chen’s therapy sessions and his growing love for the psychiatrist.

All three films are presented in 4k digital restorations from the original 35mm camera negatives. The first two films come with audio commentaries by the two directors and co-screenwriter Chong and archival behind-the-scenes looks (8:51; 5:44); while all three have an archival making-of featurette with the actors interviewed (14:34; 21:54; 12:04). The first disc also includes a new interview with the directors (38:06); an alternate ending made to comply with censorship that changes the outcome and drops the coda; a 2007 interview with Chong (23:03); and outtakes (23:22). The second film has four deleted scenes (10:10) and bloopers (2:01), while the third has interviews from 2004 (16:13). There also is a 34-page booklet with photos and Justin Chang’s essay “Double Blind.” Grade: films Internal Affairs 4 stars. IA II 3.5 stars; IA III 3.25 stars; extras 3.75 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Halo: Season One (Showtime/CBS/Paramount, 5 Ultra HD or Blu-rays or DVDs, NR, 455 min.). This 9-episode, life-action series is based on the Microsoft game that debuted on the Xbox in 2001. I have never played the game, so I cannot say how close the series is to the source material, but I can say that I was very impressed with the series, especially the settings, production design and the Covenant aliens, particularly their three leaders. The world-building is impressive.

There are several major storylines, with the major one being a race to find two artifact keystones which, when combined, might be a devastating weapon. Certainly, the Covenant feel they can use the artifacts to wipe out humanity. The Covenant have been attacking planets and eradicating human settlements. One new attack takes place on the deutronium (heavy hydrogen) mining planet of Madrigal, where there is a rebellion against the governing UNSC, led by the Kwan family. Their settlement is attacked, with Kwan Ha (Yerin Ha) the only survivor, despite the arrival of UNSC’s super soldiers, the cybernetically-enhanced Spartans.

The Spartans’ leader is Master Chief John (Pablo Schreiber), a rare human who is able to activate the keystone found on Madrigal. The contact, however, makes him start to have memories of his childhood, memories that Spartan-creator Dr. Halsey’s (Natascha McElhone) training program and emotion-deadening pellets have suppressed. Also in the Spartan Silver Team are Riz-028 (Natasha Culzac), Vannack-134 (Bentley Kalu) and Kai-125 (Kate Kennedy). Kai is the one who sees Master Chief remove his pellet and does the same, opening her up to emotions. Dr. Halsey’s newest, initially forbidden innovation is an artificial intelligence (Jen Taylor as Cortana, visually animated) that she integrates with Master Chief’s consciousness.

The Covenant have their own human (Charlie Murphy as Makee), whom they have raised from childhood and who also can activate the keystones, which gives her a close bond to Master Chief, when she pretends to be a refugee from the Covenant. Another large role is played by Soren-066 (Bokeem Woodbine), an escapee from the Spartan program, who was Master Chief’s friend and with whom he leaves Kwan for safekeeping.

The show most resembles an action video game with the fighting in episodes one, five and nine, and particularly in nine, when the viewpoint is sometimes through a Spartan helmet.

The set comes with more than five hours of bonus material, 75 minutes of which are exclusive to the set. The behind-the-scenes look fills in much background on the series and its elements. There are also seven collectable art cards. Grade: season and extras 3.5 stars

Tom Von Malder of Owls Head has reviewed music since 1972, just after graduation from Northwest-ern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has reviewed videos/DVDs since 1988.

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