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Film Franchises: Hong Kong’s ‘Infernal Affairs’ (2002) and the US remake ‘The Departed’ (2006)

Over the years, many studios have tried to find ways to take the same idea that worked once, switch it around a bit and then re-market it as a sequel or even a remake.

This week, let’s discuss a different kind of remake, the kind where Hollywood takes an excellent idea from a non-English language film and remakes it using American themes. In this case, it was made into an Oscar Winning Best Picture directed by Martin Scorsese. Of course, we’re talking about Infernal Affairs and The Departed.

The truth is, it isn’t really fair to compare the financial stats of these movies because of the extreme differences in the markets where they opened. That being said, it is quite commendable that Scorsese and his team can take a relatively low budget film and turn it into a worldwide blockbuster both financially and critically. Casting big name stars including Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg and Jack Nicholson didn’t hurt this movie’s success and the added twists and turns to the plot raised the suspense throughout.

Check out these Numbers:

THE BOX OFFICE  Release Year Budget Opening weekend gross Total Domestic Gross Total Worldwide

Infernal Affairs






The Departed






 THE OSCARS Release Year Oscar Nom. Oscar Wins

Infernal Affairs




The Departed




Having only one love interest for both characters also helps raise the bar because it’s another thing for the two main characters to grapple with. Infernal Affairs was a success when it came out, but mostly in Asia and there are much fewer mainstream moviegoers who can appreciate Hong Kong films that its popularity shot up only after people finally saw The Departed. Both films have the main idea of two characters struggling with good and evil, black and white and ultimately right and wrong helps make both films so much fun to watch.

Adding to the fact that critics and moviegoer alike loved The Departed is the proof of its 4 wins at the Oscars for Best Picture, Director, Screenwriting and Editing (It’s still unclear how it lost to Babel at the Golden Globes that year.)

Franchise Ranking


MV5BMTI1MTY2OTIxNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNjQ4NjY3._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_AL_1aThe Departed

DirectorMartin Scorsese   StarsLeonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson

The Slant: Scorsese just knows how to cut the story much better and presents us with a better cat and mouse chase.

Best Moment: No question, The roof and elevator scene. (Spoilers)


MV5BMTc0Mjg2OTY3OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNDA3Njk3OA@@._V1_SY317_CR12,0,214,317_AL_2aInfernal Affairs

DirectorsWai-Keung Lau (as Andrew Lau), Alan Mak   StarsAndy Lau, Tony Chiu Wai Leung, Anthony Chau-Sang Wong

The Slant: Still a very good cops and robber film, but can’t hold a candle up to the US English language remake which raised the bar quite high for suspense and thrills.

Best Moment: Same as above. At least the rooftop part. Let’s compare.


Final Thoughts

This is one of the rare examples of an English language remake expanding on the original story and managing to surpass it in just about every aspect. The Departed is one of the best cops and robber movies because of its ability to keep the audience on the edge of their seat the whole time due to all the twists and turns. The fact that the US version has more closure with its ended also helps.

Rob is a contributing writer for TMI. Visit his movie review website MovieRob.

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