Confession of Pain

, the latest entry from directors Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, who achieved international acclaim with their epic, three-volume cops'n'-gangster melodrama

Infernal Affairs

, is a decidedly smaller, more intimate police drama.

Set in Hong Kong, Confession revisits the theme of buddy cops who land on opposite sides of the law. This time, it's a look at their personal lives.

Detectives Hei (Tony Leung) and Bong (Takeshi Kaneshiro) begin the picture as partners and best friends who work in perfect harmony to bring down a vicious serial rapist. Sure, Hei gets a kick out of beating up the suspect, but Bong is happy to cut him some slack.

When Bong discovers that his pregnant girlfriend has committed suicide, he quits the force and becomes a low-rent P. I. with a nasty case of alcoholism. So it's fortuitous that Hei's new bride Susan (Jing Lei Xu) is so fond of Bong that she tries to help him keep his demons at bay.

Things start going sideways when Susan's billionaire dad is viciously murdered. Hei starts acting awfully funny and he seems too easily satisfied when two men, who are clearly stooges, are pinned with the murder.

When Susan asks Bong to investigate her father's death, he and his ol' partner begin a deadly pas de deux.

Confession has some beautiful moments of neon-dripping noir action. But it loses momentum by giving away too much too soon - albeit in confusing, fragmented flashbacks. Lau and Mak have created a fun little thriller, but one that lacks the pathos and grit that made Infernal Affairs (basis of The Departed, by Martin Scorsese) such a masterpiece.

Confession of Pain **1/2 (out of four stars)

Directed by Andrew Lau and Alan Mak. With Tony Leung, Chiu Wai and Takeshi Kaneshiro. Distributed by Media Asia Group. Running time: 1 hour, 50 mins.

Parent's guide: No MPAA rating (violence, gore, sexual situations)

Playing at: Prince Music Theater, Sunday at 9:30 p.m.EndText

Contact staff writer Tirdad Derakhshani at 215-854-2736 or tirdad@phillynews.com.