Thursday, June 7, 2012

Donnie Brasco. A-

You finish watching Donnie Brasco and think, what a solid film. As a whole it doesn't come across as a truly great, but there are so many individual moments here that are. The first five minutes or so when Depp and Pacino are getting acquainted are electric. Then there's the scene in the Japanese restaurant that's as good as anything in any gangster movie ever made. I could go on. The movie is directed by British filmmaker Mike Newell, a surprising choice for a gritty American crime film. I think it's Newell's best film. Coming to America, he doesn't try to emulate Scorsese or Coppola and De Palama. He doesn't try to make this a gangster epic, or give the movie pretentious energy. As a result, the movie comes across as very calm and professional. It's very much like a great British production, complete with a very fine Patrick Doyle score. I liked the approach. It allows the actors to really shine, especially Depp, who is about as intense here as you'll ever see him. Depp is the title character, an FBI agent who infiltrates a group of mobsters in New York. As you can guess, the experience begins to destroy his home life. These situations always turn out so much more complicated than they initially seem. This is a true story, which I suppose makes it more compelling than what we see in films like State of Grace or The Departed. So, I guess the final question is where does a film like this stand in relation to other gangster films? Is it one of the best? I think so. Obviously The Godfather and Goodfellas will always be at the top, but I can think of few others that deserve more praise than Donnie Brasco. It's compelling stuff. 

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