Donnie Brasco (1997)
Directed by Mike Newell
Starring: Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen
A lot of my favorite movies happened to come out in 1997. This includes Good Will Hunting, L.A. Confidential, Jackie Brown, and of course, Donnie Brasco. This movie was directed by cinema veteran Mike Newell. His credits include Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Four Weddings and a Funeral. This movie stars some big names including Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, and Michael Madsen. This film also earned an Oscar nomination for Best Writing of a Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published.
Joseph D. Pistone (Depp) is an F.B.I. agent stuck in the middle of the mob. He’s deep undercover trying to infiltrate the Bonanno Crime Family. Now he’s posing as Donnie Brasco, a jewel thief from Florida. He’s also befriended low-level mobster Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero (Pacino). Now he’s found himself in the middle of a life that he is beginning to identify with more than the real life he left behind. Brasco is surrounded by criminals who have no idea who he really is. He has to be careful not to blow his cover as he looks for information to help bring the mafia down. At home, he finds himself confronted with a wife (Anne Heche) and children who also seem to have lost track of who he is.
This is one of the better mob movies I’ve ever seen. The truth behind the story is interesting, but Hollywood took it and made a great film. The acting is the star, as Pacino and Depp bring this movie to life. Their relationship and eventual friendship plays out nicely throughout the story. Depp has the perfect amount of nervousness needed to play someone who’s caught between two worlds. Pacino brings out his inner thug with his performance as the ambitious wise guy.
Alongside these two are a number of recognizable faces. This movie features Michael Madsen (Kill Bill: Vol. 2), Anne Heche (Wag the Dog), Bruno Kirby (When Harry Met Sally), and Paul Giamatti (The Ides of March). Everyone in the cast seems to fit right in to the story and the setting.
The movie does a great job of avoiding too many of the stereotypes of mob films. Even the expected dialogue is met with good use. A great example is the “forget about it…” scene in the film. The movie also recreates the time frame very nicely. The seventies and eighties are alive and well throughout the film. The soundtrack to the film works alongside great visuals to bring all the needed aspects of the film together.
Not a whole lot to criticize with this one. It does require some patience at times, but the payoff is worth it.
This movie is worth the watch if you love a good crime film or mob movie. This isn’t a movie for the kids, there are some pretty graphic scenes throughout. I give this one 4.8 out of 5 stars.
Running Time: 127 minutes