I’ve been indulging my criminal side lately with films like Public Enemies, so I figured I’d review Martin Scorsese’s 2006 Oscar-winning flick. Because I’m badass like that.
The Departed is a remake of 2002 Chinese film Infernal Affairs, which I haven’t actually seen, so I’m basing my review solely on what The Departed brings to the table. The story goes thusly: the Boston Police Department manages to place young cadet Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) deep undercover in the city’s Irish-American gangland, run by the violent Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). However, gangster Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) has also signed on to join the Police force, planning to leak information back to Costello. The plot is very good, using a parallel between the lives of Costigan and Sullivan to drive events forward. Leonardo DiCaprio is great, but I was pleasantly surprised by Matt Damon. I know the guy can act, it’s just that I’m not used to seeing him as the bad guy. I suppose that’s what happens when you play someone like Jason Bourne.
So, with the two leads talked about, let’s focus on the “villain” of the piece. Jack Nicholson wasn’t even trying, I swear to God. If we’re honest, he hasn’t been really good since One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest back in 1975. Yeah he was okay in As Good As It Gets, but that’s about it (first person to mention his turn as the Joker in Batman gets to die) He just does the same schtick over and over again and I’m getting sick of it. Nearly all of Costello’s lines could have been taken from Nicholson’s life, with the line: “I haven’t “needed the money” since I took Archie’s milk money in the third grade. Tell you the truth, I don’t need pussy any more either…but I like it. “ just needing the words “took Archie’s milk money” replaced with “did Batman in ’89” to be a bona-fide fact. Trouble is, even with all I’ve said above, he’s so damn charismatic almost none of that matters. I just wish he’d stretch himself again, because he’s such a brilliant actor.
Despite my personal beef with Nicholson, the rest of the film is pretty damn good. Scorsese makes an artform out of the tense scenes on display here and it’s good to see. The elevator shootout scene had me jumping at the slightest little noise, which is always a good sign that the director is doing something right. Some of the dialogue is truly stellar too, with most of it spewing from the foul-mouthed Dignam (Mark Wahlberg). Turns out Marky Mark can act. Who knew?
The one thing that really let The Departed down was the ending. Not the ending of the story or bad acting or anything like that, but the final shot. I won’t go into it here, because it will spoil some of the twists and turns that should be enjoyed spoiler-free, but it bugged the fuck out of me. It was so smack-in-the-face obvious. It seemed like Scorsese nipped out to the loo and some other director, fresh from some bullshit film school, snuck into the edit suite and decided to add this shot on the end “to add poetic meaning”. It undermines the whole damn film and pissed me off to boot.