Scorsese (Goodfellas, Gangs
of New York,
Mean Streets) returns to the
turf of his favorite movie genre, the
mobster crime drama. Other than Francis
Ford Coppola (The Godfather
trilogy) no one does it better.
Departed, Scorsese nails the story,
the look, the feel and the all important
character development. Toss in enough
tension to keep your eyes glued to the
screen for two and a half hours and you
have a film worth seeing.
Yet, to top it off,
Scorsese recruited a star studded cast
including Jack Nicholson, Leonardo
DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Martin Sheen, Alec
Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg. For most
directors thatís overkill. For Scorsese
it was an opportunity to whack a lot of
big names and still have enough left
over to carry the coffins.
Although itís a
good script the story is not original.
Departed is a remake of the hugely
popular (i.e. popular in Asia) 2002 Hong
Kong film Infernal Affairs.
That title would be considered a satire
in this country. Scorsese was wise to
change the title and tweak the story.
His version follows
the story of two Boston police officers,
one of whom is a member of the Irish
mafia (Matt Damon), who has infiltrated
the ranks of the Massachusetts State
Police, and the other is a young state
police officer (Leonardo DiCaprio) on an
undercover mission to join the Irish
Sullivan (Matt Damon) spent his youth
working for mob boss and surrogate
father Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson).
Heís a smart kid and Costello sends him
to the police academy, where he excels.
He quickly moves up the ranks within the
state police while keeping Costello one
chess move ahead of the law.
(Leonardo DiCaprio) always has wanted to
be a police officer. Except for his
recently deceased father, the rest of
his family is comprised of petty
thieves. Billy sees law enforcement as a
means of building his self-esteem,
redeeming the family name and becoming
part of a larger family he feels proud
to belong to.
of wearing a badge, his superiors,
Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and
foul-mouthed, hothead Sergeant Digham
(Mark Wahlberg), send him undercover to
infiltrate the Irish mob in the very
neighborhood he worked so hard to
character Sgt. Digham is an example of
one of the more glaring downsides of the
film, which too often turns into a loud,
Digham, the dialogue at the police
station is a constant series of
spit-in-your face, expletive-laden
insults interrupted by an occasional
conjunction. Rather than adding
authenticity to the scene, the
outrageously brutal and irrational tough
talk undermines any believability the
scene might have had.
story doesnít linger long anywhere,
moving briskly and building tension as
knowledge of the existence of the moles
is known in both camps. Fear of having
their cover blown creates gut-wrenching
fear on the part of Sullivan and
Costigan as they tap away on their cell
phones sending urgent messages to their
respective bosses during an illicit
transaction between Costelloís gang and
Chinese government agents.
Both moles work
feverishly to conceal their true
identities while at the same time trying
to expose the other. This cat-and-mouse
competition between the moles drives the
action. You know sooner or later one of
them will be found out and the
consequence will be unpleasant. However,
thatís the only thing predictable in
The Departed. Detours are
Among the twists
and turns in the movie, Sullivan is
dating a pretty police psychiatrist
(Vera Farmiga), who in turn is treating
Costigan, who is unable to mask his
personal torment. The two moles end up
bedding her along parallel time frames
with results that may surprise you.
Itís a bit of a
stretch considering DiCaprioís character
is a morose, emotionally unstable,
underpaid and underfed patient of hers,
and Damonís character is healthy,
handsome, charming, upbeat and
prosperous. She eventually tells
Costigan that Freud was right, and sex
with patients should remain in the realm
of the unconscious.
Instead, she moves
in with the emotionally barren and
shallow Sullivan. What a perfect couple.
Unfortunately, truth rears its ugly
head, and she discovers the father of
her child is working for mobster Frank
Costello. It could be worse. He could
have only one income.
Jack Nicholson as
Frank Costello steals the show when he
plays it straight as a gritty,
foulmouthed mobster. However, when he
executes a few comic bits like waving a
dildo in a porn theater or imitating a
snarling rat we sigh in collective
disappointment. When heís mean heís a
scary guy. When he tries to be funny he
looks like a silly sideshow act in a
aside, letís not forget the strong
performances by the rest of the cast
including Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and
Ray Winstone. Baldwin plays a police
supervisor. His character is preening,
blunt and always ready with a glib
remark about the mission or life itself.
His screen time is brief, but his
smiling, arrogant face provides the
comic relief. And Winstoneís (Sexy
Beast) authentic performance as
Costelloís loyal right-hand man balances
In the end,
Scorseseís tale plays out like a tragic
morality play. There are no winners. The
title of the film says it all.
police-crime drama contains non-stop
profanity along with sexist, racist and
derogatory ethnic dialogue. Not
recommended for women, children or
anyone living in the Bible belt.
anyone 17 years or younger. Rated R for
strong, brutal violence, pervasive
language, some strong sexual content and