Welcome back, Marty. After trying to score Oscars for Gangs of New York and The Aviator (both solid films, don’t get me wrong), Martin Scorsese is back to the old stomping grounds with The Departed. You know the good stuff: crooks, double-crosses, mafia, brutal violence, corrupt cops, colorful language, the list goes on. While The Departed isn’t quite the caliber of Goodfellas, it will satisfy those hungry for a solid crime caper and who love to watch gifted actors go hog wild on screen.
Most are unaware that The Departed is actually a remake of 2002 Hong Kong film entitled Infernal Affairs. Opening “some years ago,” the film involves a Boston drug kingpin, Frank Costello (Nicholson), who literally has a stranglehold on the city – including the cops. Costello befriends a young Colin Sullivan (Damon), whom he takes under his wing. Colin grows up to be a police officer, but he still has firm ties with Costello and his crimes. Enter Billy Costigan (DiCaprio), another up-and-coming police officer who is assigned to go undercover and infiltrate Costello’s world so that the Boston Police Department can build their case against him. With the law on each side of the fence, wrongdoings are bound to happen – and they do.
Every member of the spectacular cast is in top form. Leonardo DiCaprio may have top billing, but it’s Jack Nicholson who runs away with the film. Scorsese has played his cards right and just lets Jack go nuts. Overacting? Perhaps, but it is a hell of a lot of fun. Costello is an undeniably evil and amoral man, but Nicholson paints him with charm and a razor sharp sense of humor. Few actors can pull off this mesh convincingly. That’s not to take anything away from DiCaprio and Matt Damon, both of whom are outstanding in their emotion-rich roles. I have feared for some time that people have forgotten just how great of an actor DiCaprio is, what with the whole Titanic pigeonholing he received by mainstream audiences. Here he is put through the gamut and his acting chops are on full display. Scintillating supporting work is offered up by Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin, with Baldwin getting some of the largest laughs in the film.
The only flaw lies within a largely unnecessary love triangle subplot involving police psychiatrist Madolyn Madden (Vera Farmiga) and her relationships with Costigan and Sullivan. It never amounts to much and the Madolyn character really isn’t very interesting, but fortunately the third act isn’t bogged down by it.
Running two and a half hours, The Departed never feels it. This is remarkably compelling cinema driven by some of the best talent in the business. Scorsese succeeds handily in his return to the genre he revolutionized sixteen years ago.
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Length: 149 Minutes
Rating: R for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content and drug material.
Theatrical Release: October 6, 2006
Directed by: Martin Scorsese
Written by: William Monahan. Infernal Affairs screenplay by Siu Fai Mak & Felix Chong.
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone
Scorcese is at his best and truly deserves Oscar for this film. Also notable are the performances of Matt Damon (such a great “bad-guy;” he really must do stuff like this more often), Leo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson (as always), and Mark Wahlberg (best since Rockstar). However, some in the theater with me who had seen Infernal Affairs did say that Departed did not live up to the original.