Monday, February 26, 2007

The Departed: Grade B


The Departed (2006)

Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Walberg, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga. Director Martin Scorsese.

A gangster film from Scorsese is always enjoyable. The intricate plot, snappy dialog and excellent acting make this one compulsively watchable and re-watchable. The level of violence is high yet stylistic. I can’t even count how many characters got their brains blown out at close range. It’s not quite comic violence as in Kill Bill, but the blood sprays can be taken as part of the syntax of the movie and even as a Scorsese trademark. Sheen is the police captain in pursuit of crime boss Nicholson, who peforms the classic, clowny, mugging, sociopathic part he has been doing since Cuckoo’s Nest. It’s not good acting, but it’s good Nicholson. Sheen seems lost in his part. The real acting comes from DiCaprio, an undercover cop in Nicholson’s gang and to a lesser extent, from Damon, a Nicholson mole in the police department. Each organization suspects a traitor within so there is plenty of paranoid tension. Farmiga is a government psychologist who gets involved romantically with both moles without either being aware of the other. It is not a very plausible triangle, but Farmiga's acting shines. She reminded me of Catherine Keener. The plot has lots of twists and revelations, and uses de rigueur time-sliced editing to keep the pace up. Being a gangster movie, few characters have any realistic motivation. Killers kill because they are killers. So overall, the movie is not emotionally satisfying, just an enjoyable puzzle, like The Usual Suspects, as long as one overlooks the fact that both moles constantly cell-phone their bosses but nobody ever thinks to check phone records. The multi-twist ending spoils the intellectual integrity of the story so blatantly that one wonders if it is actually some kind of inside joke. Good, solid genre entertainment.

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