Monday, January 15, 2007

The Departed

2006, US, directed by Martin Scorsese

From the opening frames, The Departed gives the impression that this Scorsese doing 'Scorsese', returning to the gangland territory of some of his most distinctive work, amping up the editing and adding yet more interwoven layers such that at times, it's like watching The Godfather or, for that matter, GoodFellas with the fast-forward button on. While Scorsese's always seemed absolutely assured in the Italian-American milieu, his take on Irish-American gangsters in Boston lacks the same conviction, and often spills into cliché; for all of the repetitious shots of Boston's golden State House dome, the film also lacks the remarkable sense of place that marked Infernal Affairs, the slick Hong Kong picture which Scorsese remakes here.

The remake isn't a shot-by-shot re-creation, of course: William Monahan's script adds characters, removes and then adds plot turns (particularly an altered conclusion) and throws in so many expletives that the film sometimes verges on self-parody (the opening voiceover is like a more profane re-tread of some of the sentiments in Mean Streets). The film adds about 50 minutes to the original's lean running time, much of it because the gangland boss played by Jack Nicholson occupies a much inflated place in comparison to the the Hong Kong version, which is presumably the price you pay for casting Jack in the role rather than Ray Winstone; the latter is quietly excellent as Jack's right-hand-man. Nicholson is in full-blown over-the-top mode and Scorsese makes no effort to reign him in, which seriously unbalances the picture. Much better are Matt Damon and, especially, Leonardo DiCaprio, who is absolutely convincing as an undercover cop internalising his experiences to the point that he is eaten away from within; he's the acting standout, and the biggest reason to see the film.

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States