The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Departed (2006)

Saw some good movies this weekend, and thought I’d catch up on my reviews.  First, Martin Scorsese’s fabulous “The Departed.”  This one is a real nail-biter, with generous gobs of sex, violence, and twisted father-son relationships set against the backdrop of Boston’s Irish mob-cop entanglements.  You see, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Billy Costigan, a young and up-and-coming criminal in the Irish mob.  Matt Damon plays Colin Sullivan, an up-and-coming cop committed to bringing down Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson, in a scene-chewing and extremely effective performance), who is Costigan’s mentor…

Or is he?  Because DiCaprio is actually an undercover cop, and Sullivan is actually an undercover hood.  Yep, we have a Tale of Two Moles here, two men committed to different sides of the legal line, with Nicholson as their surrogate father-figure.  Yow.  Man, this is tense stuff.  Both are also involved with a court psychologist (Vera Farmiga), which rachets up the tension a notch or two.

Adapted from an original Hong Kong films called “Infernal Affairs”  (which I haven’t seen), the movie plays like a baby.  The performances are terrific, the tension palpable, the plot implausibilities pretty much zip past due to the narrative drive.  Each of these guys is desperate to unmask the other, and it plays like that old Kevin Costner suspense film No Way Out, only on steroids.  I’ve never liked DiCaprio more, and Matt Damon’s performance is almost as good. Heck, even Mark Walhberg seriously rises to the occasion, as a tough cop on both their necks.  If you like crime dramas, see it.  An “A”


Sorry, but in a film that bandies about the “N” word so freely, to have only one black character, that character had better be played by an actor of power.  Anthony Anderson, as a cop named“Brown” (thank you very much), doesn’t fit the bill.  Surrounded by actors like Martin Sheen and DiCaprio, it requires a nuanced, focused performance to bring true humanity to a small role.  The casting of comedians and rappers in such parts strikes me as a subconscious avoidance on the part of the filmmakers—they literally don’t care if the characters are human.  They are just backdrop.

He is also obese (does anyone really buy the scene where Brown is jogging with the police class?), and dies protecting a white man.  If Scorsese is really oblivious to what this looks like, he needs to wake the @#$$ up.   

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