U.S. Release Date:
October 6, 2006
Distributor: Warner Bros.
Director: Martin Scorsese
Writer: William Monahan
Producer: Graham King, Brad Pitt, Martin Scorsese, Brad Grey, Gianni Nunnari (executive)
Composer: Howard Shore
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson, Alec Baldwin, James Badge Dale
Running Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes
MPAA Rating: R (strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content and drug material)
Bloody and unbowed, director Martin Scorsese's mob picture The Departed is vigorous, character-driven and punctuated with action. In fact, it's so eager to please that it's tempting to forget that Mr. Scorsese's latest is high camp horror nihilism with an all-star cast.
In other words, it mirrors today's culture, which is why it collapses for any but the most infected cynic halfway through the barrage of blarney and blood. Jack Nicholson's Irish mobster spits the picture's theme early in the game: "woopdeef—-in' 'do."
There it is in the vein of hyper-vitriol in which everyone (just men, really) is royally ticked off at reality and no one considers it necessary to explain why. Certainly not Mr. Nicholson's Vladimir Lenin-lookalike mob boss, who looks like he flew over the cuckoo's nest, had a few too many and nose-dived to the pavement, dragging his splattered remains across Boston, where this caper takes place.
Though he steadies himself in the presence of Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio as cat and mouse undercover agents, Mr. Nicholson is simply overdone, like something out of a John Waters movie. He eats insects, drips blood, dives into bed with a pair of lesbians and comes up with an opera-listening Baby Boomer who wears t-shirts, reads Tom Clancy and twaddles around looking ridiculous.
He robs the movie of momentum and realism whenever he's given the chance, which is every five minutes or so. Everyone else including Damon, Alec Baldwin, Mark Wahlberg and Martin Sheen postures according to type, spitting out vulgar lines like they just discovered their first swear word, calling one another 'faggot' and blowing each other's brains out until it can be figured out just who's snitching on whom—the mob or the police and there is not one sliver of difference.
But even if one can accept that criminals and punishers walk around talking in run-on sentences, it's fairly clear where this is going and that it's designed to be another long, pointless exercise in the idea that values are undefinable and unachieveable. The closest thing to a character worth caring about is the young tough played by Mr. DiCaprio in The Departed's best performance.
The dual track of two men caught between the forces of good and evil holds steady attention—until one catches on to the writers' notion of what constitutes both. As Mr. DiCaprio's good cop slips into a drug-induced oblivion, Damon's bad cop flinches and, for a moment, everything's up for grabs, and one waits to see who will wind up in a pool of blood and who will double-cross during the multiple showdowns, including one surrounding a Red Chinese weapons deal. What ultimately happens is more a trick than a legitimate twist.
Finally, with Mr. Nicholson baring buck teeth and chomping on a fly, The Departed departs a credible universe, leaving the filthy fecal matter of yet another movie, though carefully measured and polished by Martin Scorsese, about nothing.
REVIEWS OF SIMILAR MOVIES: