“Goodfellas” was perhaps the most notable and definitive film of the 1990s. It is still one of the most memorable organized crime movies ever produced. Martin Scorsese’s latest piece is set to define the first decade of the 21st century, which is no historical surprise, considering he shares the undisputed mafia throne with Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather).
“The Departed” combines everything that’s great about organized crime thrillers and cop dramas. There’s betrayal, sex, murder, drugs and enough Irish and Italian attitude to make me long for Sunday supper with the family. This is one of the best movies of the year, and the Academy will certainly acknowledge that fact when Scorsese finally takes home the award for best director of the year.
This is not another mafioso whack-fest (though there’s plenty of it). “The Departed” is a thinking man’s action movie with a hall of fame cast based on an earlier Asian film called “Infernal Affairs.” It is set in Boston and loosely based on James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, giving it an instant cult of New England followers who follow the film gamut from “Boondock Saints” to “Mystic River.”
Leonardo DiCaprio is good as a true-believing undercover cop. Sure his accent isn’t up to par, but no one truly butchers the English language the way natives of Eastern Massachusetts can, so I can’t cast blame upon him for that. Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson are both excellent, and Nicholson returns to villany with the panache that only he can deliver. His style as organized crime kingpin, Frank Costello, is so blunt that it’s almost subtle. The role almost went to Robert De Niro, but his work on “The Good Shepherd” kept him from what would have been his 10th appearance in a Scorsese film.
Alec Baldwin gave a fine performance as a loopy cop named Ellerby, and Martin Sheen stood out as a compassionate yet determined state police brass. Several other actors were speculated for Sheen’s role, but he delivered nicely.
One performance that really stood out was Mark Wahlberg’s breakthrough performance as Dignam, an antagonistic good-guy with a mouth to boot:
Colin Sullivan (Damon): [Fighting] What the fuck?
Dignam: You motherfucker! Cocksucker!
Colin Sullivan: [Fighting back] What the fuck did you say you cocksucker? What the fuck did you fucking say?
Dignam: Your mother’s cunt! Your mother’s cunt!
Overall, not much of a children’s movie, but Wahlberg was excellent in this movie, and I expect him to get nominated for his supporting role and wouldn’t be surprised to see him take it down.
It was also good to see Damon take a leading villain role and do something with it.
A great plot, great cast and great directing resulted in a great movie.