When the Hong Kong thriller "Infernal Affairs" came out in 2002, it was apparent at a glance that the filmmakers had a thing for Michael Mann, and his film "Heat" in particular. All sleek, cool, blue-tinged urban noir imagery and equally cold, controlled performances, "Infernal Affairs" was a tight exercise in cop-vs.-criminal suspense, with an emphasis -- as in so many of Mann's films -- on the psychological similarities between the two.

The movie was a huge hit in Hong Kong, and in many other markets too, but -- as usual -- not in the States, where the remake rights were quickly snapped up. Mann would have seemed the obvious choice, but it was not to be; perhaps the idea of imitating his imitators seemed rather pointless. A fresh vision was required, and William Monahan's script -- which relocated the action to the Irish-catholic neighborhood of South Boston -- ended up in the hands of director Martin Scorsese who has turned it into "The Departed."

Scorsese does seem an obvious choice, in some respects. Many of his best films have been set in the criminal underworld ("Mean Streets," "Goodfellas," "Casino"), and many reflect the specifics of the immigrant-enclave experience. Still, Scorsese has always had a thing for explosive, psychologically volatile characters -- think of Jake LaMotta in "Raging Bull," or Jack the Butcher in "Gangs of New York" -- whereas the Michael Mann aesthetic veers toward more controlled, intensely focused types. True, they do explode from time to time too, but never with the hint of insanity that haunts so many Scorsese characters, from Travis Bickle right on down.