Film Reviews


By • Oct 6th, 2006 •

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Warner Bros. Pictures / A Plan B/Initial Entertainment Group/Vertigo Entertainment production in association with Media Asia Films
Running time — 152 minutes / MPAA rating: R

Sensational. Before, Martin Scorsese, DiCaprio, Damon, and Walherg were movie stars; now they are “Class A” actors. The only woman is the weak link.

I wish Jack Nicholson would shut up about his sex life.

Why has Leonardo DiCaprio made three films – and counting – with Martin Scorsese? Scorsese gets terrific performances out of actors. Watch THE DEPARTED – even minor characters have presence. With a first rate script by William Monahan (adapting Hong Kong smash thriller INFERNAL AFFAIRS – I tried watching it twenty times but couldn’t keep track of who was who), Scorsese delivers exactly what you want: highly stylized, and vicious-glamorous, characters.

The script is funny, witty, and dangerously smart.

You expect DiCaprio and Damon to be good, but you can’t wait for Mark Wahlberg to turn up.

And Jack? Its all about him, isn’t it? Scorsese, understanding that Jack can chew the scenery and the drapes, uses him selectively. But that grinning-crazy Jack does show up. To please his mega-star, Scorsese apparently filmed a three-way sex scene Jack wanted. Thank God it never made it into the film. (Nicholson told Rolling Stone magazine that he convinced Scorsese to include a sex scene featuring himself, two hot women and a sex toy in THE DEPARTED. He said: “I thought it would be more frightening if my character had a sexual component . . . so I called Marty up and said, ‘Look, I just thought of what would be an interesting scene of [my character] having wild sex. And in this scene with two girls, one of the girls is wearing a strap-on’ . . . This was my idea and improvisational, and Marty went for it.”)

And now this expensive perk is part of Nicholson’s at-home after-dinner entertainment.

Feared south Boston mob boss Frank Costello (Nicholson) takes a liking to pre-teen Colin Sullivan (Damon) and, teaching him The Ways of the Mob, guides his career path by placing him inside the Massachusetts state police. Colin, very intelligent and collegian-appropriate, soon joins the Special Investigation Unit. The unit is run by Captain Ellerby (Alec Baldwin) and he wants them to concentrate all their efforts on destroying Frank Costello.

Another arm of the Special Investigation Unit that runs undercover operations enlists Billy Costigan (DiCaprio), whose family history is tainted with low-level criminals. After an accusatory interrogation by Capt. Queenan (Martin Sheen) and his foul-mouthed side-kick Sgt. Dignam (Wahlberg), Billy agrees to go undercover and infiltrate Frank’s gang. He is busted, dropped from the state police, and goes to prison. Returning to the streets, his family’s legacy brings him into contact with Frank’s loyal right-hand man, Mr. French (Ray Winstone). His sudden brutality is perfect mob-molding fodder. Undergoing a nasty ritualistic initiation by Frank, he is on the team. Billy soon makes his dead father proud.

So here they are – Billy’s on Frank’s team but really working undercover, and Colin is on the Special Investigation Unit in constant communication with Frank.

But Billy is under tremendous stress. Frank’s crew kills people and Frank is a proud homicidal maniac.

During a highly tense transaction, both sides realize that they have a mole inside their ranks. For Frank, it’s obvious. It’s got to be the new guy, right?

The excitement never lets up, and Scorsese’s love of vicious criminals is mob opera. The only weak link is police psychologist Madolyn (Vera Farmiga). The underwritten character is not fleshed-out by Farmiga, who is clearly not able to emotionally engage us with her conflicted attraction to Men Who Kill. We should have seen her morbid fascination with dangerous men as she becomes involved with both Colin and Billy.

You know what I mean – those female public defenders who sneak killers out of prison, or those needy obese women who marry death row inmates. A more experienced actress would have found a way to telegraph Madolyn’s character flaws.

This is DiCaprio’s movie. You can see that his relationship with Scorsese brings out the best in him. As the messy killings mount around him, he starts cracking up. You not only see it, you feel it.

Damon has scenes that seem tailor-written for him. Everyone (except Farmiga) was terrific – I even loved the background players. And Baldwin, whose notorious bad behavior on sets are legends, must have behaved himself. After all, it’s a Scorsese film. It’s not THE CAT IN THE HAT.

Once again, praise must be given to Scorsese’s long-time editor Thelma Schoonmaker. She edited the great Scorese films RAGING BULL, GOODFELLAS, CASINO, and CAPE FEAR!

By the way Jack, we really want to hear what you know about Brad Pitt’s sex life.

Director: Martin Scorsese
Screenwriter: William Monahan
Based on the film “Infernal Affairs” directed by Alan Mak and Andrew Lau Wai Keung
Producers: Brad Pitt, Brad Grey, Graham King
Executive producers: Roy Lee, Doug Davison, G. Mac Brown, Kristen Hahn, Gianni Nunnari
Director of photography: Michael Ballhaus
Production designer: Kristi Zea
Music: Howard Shore
Co-producers: Joseph Reidy, Michael Aguilar, Rick Schwartz
Costume designer: Sandy Powell
Editor: Thelma Schoonmaker

Billy: Leonardo DiCaprio
Colin: Matt Damon
Costello: Jack Nicholson
Dignam: Mark Wahlberg
Mr. French: Ray Winstone
Madolyn: Vera Farmiga
Brown: Anthony Anderson
Ellerby: Alec Baldwin

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