Saturday, October 07, 2006

MovieWatch: "The Departed"

"The Departed"
Director: Martin Scorsese
Fien Print Rating (out of 100): 75
In a Nutshell: Forgive me if I have to turn my film snob card in, but I *liked* "Gangs of New York." I don't care for Leo's accent or much that Cameron Diaz did, but I'm not prepared to dismiss its nearly unique combination of brutality and period excess (and artistry). But it's become trendy to be all "Blah, blah, blah Scorsese Wanted An Oscar blah blah blah." That may be why most critics, in their rush to hail Scorsese's "return to form" in departed are ignoring the fact that "The Departed" has taken the utterly brilliant conceit of "Infernal Affairs" and transposed it onto the father-son dynamic of "Gangs of New York," with Jack Nicholson's fiercesome scenery-chewy standing in for Daniel Day-Lewis' and Leo's erratic Boston accent standing in for Leo's erratic Irish accent. Heck, Ray Winstone stands in for Brendan Gleeson, which is about the most equal trade I can imagine. Regardless, the "Infernal Affairs" mechanics -- a cop inside the mob and a mobster inside the police department play cat and mouse -- are infused by the story of an heirless king so desperate for a son that he's willing to overlook the fact that the son will inevitably bring him down. Screenwriter William Monahan has done a good job of giving the story a Boston flavor and an string of tough guy bon mot, even if the accents are all over the map. He hasn't changed the plot very much, that's for sure. The crime lord part has been effectively beefed up for Nicholson, which was a fine decision. The dueling moles have been made younger and less experienced, which is a bit more problematic (Tony Leung's undercover cop had been inside for a number of years, which made it more plausible that he wouldn't be suspected -- that Nicholson refuses to just assume Leo's the mole is a different character wrinkle, I guess).

And Scorsese does his thing, collaborating with DP Michael Ballhaus and editor Thelma Schoonmaker to show all variety of hacky Tarantino and Tony Scott imitators how a twisty, violent thriller should be produced. More than a few times I found myself thinking of Spike Lee's "Inside Man" in the sense that neither movie reinvents the genre wheel, but they accentuate the ineptitude of something like "The Sentinel" or "Lucky Number Slevin" or "16 Blocks." The three leads -- Nicholson, DiCaprio and the always reliable Matt Damon -- are such strong personalities that it's amazing how many secondary performers are able to make impressions. Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin provide comic relief without sacrificing testosterone, which isn't surprisingly in Baldwin's case, but comes off as near-revelatory in Wahlberg's. While his performance isn't specifically notable, I was also pleased to see Kim Bauer's CTU boyfriend Chase (or his real-life alter ego James Badge Dale) appearing in a major part in a major movie and not looking at all out of place [Oh and Chase's hand has grown back well]. I don't know that "The Departed" is actually a better movie than "Infernal Affairs," but that isn't an insult. I'm guessing it'll play better on a second viewing.


  1. Anonymous7:49 PM

    I liked Gangs of New York as well. However, I'm not a critic so that doesn't affect my cred. Heh.

    My favorite thing about this film were the performances. I can't stop thinking about Leonardo DiCaprio's performance -- it somehow really affected me, and I'm not usually a fan of his. Wahlberg was a great surprise. I also really, really liked Vera Farmiga. I enjoyed her on the now-defunct USA show "Touching Evil," and I'm glad she is starting to get some recognition in film.

    The only thing that really bothered me were a few of the crazy "Jack Nicholson" moments, like the dildo thing and the strange, out of place coke scene, both of which I came home and read in Rolling Stone were his idea. Bad ideas, Jack. Otherwise, I thought it was great.

  2. Hey Carrie...

    I agree on the Jack scenes, particularly given that the movie felt rather long. You could have trimmed five minutes of Jack-being-Jack and there would have been plenty left-over. But those moments got so much press during production and afterwards that Scorsese may not have felt that he could cut them? Or he may just have liked the black dildo. Who could possibly know?

    Oh and thanks for stickin' up for me in the One Tree Hill nastiness over on the Zap2it blog! I haven't felt so hated by teenage girls since high school!


  3. Anonymous9:31 PM

    i just scanned the comment on the OTH post at z2i, and you aren't kidding. teenage girls around the country are screaming your name -- and not in the the good justin timerlake way.

  4. Anonymous9:33 PM

    (whoa, sleepy me w/ the typos...)

  5. Anonymous4:14 PM

    You're welcome. One Tree Hill fans are scary!

  6. Great site, great review.

    The thing that stood out in this film was the lovely Mr. DiCaprio's performance. He was intense.