Donnie Brasco

19  NOV
In 1978, the US government waged a war against organized crime. One man was left behind the lines.

Directed by  Mike Newell
Written by  Joseph D. Pistone, Richard Woodley, Paul Attanasio
Starring:  Al Pacino (Lefty)
Johnny Depp (Donnie)
Michael Madsen (Sonny)
Bruno Kirby (Nicky)
James Russo (Paulie)
Anne Heche (Maggie)
Runtime: 126 minutes
This true story follows FBI agent Joe Pistone as he infiltrates the mafia of New York. Befriending Lefty Ruggiero, Pistone (under the name Donnie Brasco) is able to embed himself in a mafia faction lead by Sonny Black. Ruggiero and Pistone become tight as the group goes about collecting money for 'the bosses'. Eventually, the group become big time when Black himself becomes a boss, all the while Pistone collects evidence. However, the trials and tribulations of the undercover work become more than Pistone can bear. His marriage falls apart and to top it off, the mafia suspect a mole in the organization. The real dilemma is afforded to Pistone, who knows if he walks away from the mafia, Ruggiero will be the one punished. - P. Wong

Although this may look like just another movie starring Al Pacino as a Mafia boss, Donnie Brasco is actually quite different from the other movies of this genre and even Al Pacino himself plays a rather different role compared to his previous movies. In fact he plays Lefty, a minor lieutenant, not an important boss, who simply tries to survive and improve his 'ranking' in the local mob. When he meets Donnie, an FBI agent in disguise, he tries to teach him how to become a wiseguy and introduces him to the bosses unaware of the strong consequences this will have on his own life.

The whole movie is about the relationship between Donnie, played by a great Johnny Depp, and Lefty, showing the changes in Donnie's personality, his problems with his wife and the contact with the other FBI agents and the mafia people. There isn't too much violence nor many gun fights, the movie concentrates on dialogues which are very interesting and sometimes amusing.

Obviously, most of the cliches of the genre are present, but it would have been impossible to do a movie about mafia without them! In particular, the speeches (and the strong accent, at least in the italian dubbed version) are fairly typical, vulgar and full of jargon, but it is particularly nice to see Lefty that explains this way of speeking and the subtle differencies between apparently equivalent expressions or Donnie that explains many different meaning of "forget about it" to some FBI agents.

The development of the characters is very well presented, it is hard not to sympathize with Lefty for his poor and sometimes pathetic life, thirty years spent working for the Mafia without getting much out of it, with the constant worry of being killed either by the rival coalition or by his own comrades. This is definitely what makes this movie so good, I found the character of Donnie and his problems with his two different 'lifes' far less interesting.

The fairly dramatic and touching finale is excellent and even if I am usually inclined to prefer even more violent or dramatic ending, in this case I cannot really think about anything better than what the script provides. Finally, the movie seems to be fairly quick and hardly tiresome from the beginning to the end so its long runtime of over two hours isn't a negative point.

Rating: 7.5  ****

Links:  Official Site




© Copyright Sergio Monesi, 1997-1999.
Last updated: 25 Jun 1999