Al Pacino's Oscar drought was finally ended thanks to a remake, Scent of a Woman,
and it just so happened that Martin Scorsese also fulfilled his seemingly endless quest for Academy Award glory by putting an American spin on a foreign film. The movie in question, of course, was The Departed
, Scorsese's star-studded spin on Andrew Lau and Alan Mak'
s twisty Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs
, about a cop who goes undercover as a mobster, and a mobster who becomes a mole in the police department. Penned by William Monahan, The Departed
stayed pretty close to the plot contortions of Infernal Affairs
, but moved the action to Boston's violent (and expletive-heavy) criminal underworld. Lau and Mak's movie was clearly influenced by U.S. cinema – the New York Times
' Elvis Mitchell identified the influence of Michael Mann, and especially that director's Heat
– but what most drew Scorsese to the film was the morally complex world it portrayed, which keyed into recurring themes in his own work. “Good and bad become very blurred,” Scorsese told The Guardian
. “That is something I know I'm attracted to. It's a world where morality doesn't exist, good doesn't exist, so you can't even sin any more as there's nothing to sin against. There's no redemption of any kind.” The team behind Infernal Affairs
was mostly very pleased with Scorsese's remake, with Andrew Lau declaring, “Of course I think the version I made is better, but the Hollywood version is pretty good too. [Scorsese] made the Hollywood version more attuned to American culture.” Roger Ebert
noted how faithful The Departed
was to its original source, and yet how Scorsese had also made the movie his own. “[H]aving just re-read my 2004 review [of Infernal Affairs
], I find I could change the names, cut and paste it, and be discussing this film. But that would only involve the surface, the plot and a few philosophical quasi-profundities. What makes this a Scorsese film, and not merely a retread, is the director's use of actors, locations and energy, and its buried theme. I am fond of saying that a movie is not about what it's about; it's about how it's about it. That's always true of a Scorsese film.” The Departed
went on to enormous success, finally winning Scorsese the Academy Award for Best Director and also becoming the first remake ever to take home the Best Picture Oscar.