Departed is tolerable for some highly entertaining performances,
but it’s just the same old cops and mobsters crap. Even with Scorsese’s
flourish for violence and filmic technique, the story itself is just dull.
It’s an interesting premise but it plays out in the most banal way
The Departed Review
The Boston mob has a mole in the police. The police
have an undercover agent in the mob. Neither know about each other. That
should be two and a half hours of pure tension, but until the third act,
it never seems like anyone is ever in any danger of being found out. Instead,
it’s all the standard machinations of proving oneself to the mob boss
and keeping the cops on a wild goose chase.
Without Jack Nicholson, there’d be no movie at all. He brings his
classic Jack charisma to the mob boss. Although he’s never quite as
edgy as when he’s hitting on a teenage girl in the prologue, he remains
joyfully inappropriate. Even showier than Nicholson is Mark Wahlberg, who
plays a ball busting police chief with a zeal worthy of Jack. It’s
all about taking shots at his underlings who can’t do the job right,
who whine about how hard their life is. He’s Mr. Wake Up Call.
Next to these guys, none of the other actors hold up. Matt Damon and Leonardo
DiCaprio look scared the whole movie. Maybe they’re supposed to be
in their tense situations, but they’re also supposed to be playing
undercover. Some badassness was required. DiCaprio does a little Joe Pesci
style violence early on, but it never amounts to anything.
The soundtrack is typically great Scorsese choices, full of oldies. He cuts
the music in the middle for drama, but by that point there’s not much
story to emphasize. The first act plays like Goodfellas 2000
with Billy Costigan (DiCaprio) fighting his way into the mob. What’s
missing is any sense of fun.
Why should we care about cops and mobsters? They’re
bad guys, the cops can’t catch them, that’s life. Why should
we want to spend more than two hours in this world? In previous epics, we’re
treated to the seduction of either such world before it turns to sh*t. Or
even if it’s just cops and bad guys, there’s some real danger
that needs to be thwarted. This is so contained to a specific neighborhood,
it doesn’t seem like it’s hurting anyone worthwhile. It’s
When Billy starts freaking out about how deep he’s gotten, we don’t
actually see how deep he is. They say he’s been in for a year, but
we’ve only seen him play act. He takes a beating or two, but that’s
part of the job. There’s no real threat to him. Sure, if he gets found
out, they’ll kill him slow, but we haven’t seen them get close
or make any threats on him outside the usual “hanging with the mob”
Likewise, even when corrupt cop Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) gets charged
with finding the mole, who is actually himself, it seems like he’s
set. If they’re dumb enough not to suspect him, should we really worry
that he needs to generate results? It’s close to two hours before
either side gets remotely close to uncovering each other.
There should be so many interesting dilemmas, but like the original Infernal
Affairs, it muddles in standard mob deals and police investigations,
nothing you can’t see on any handful of TV shows. Why not give each
side some painful decisions to make. Donnie Brasco had
to beat the hell out of a total innocent to keep his ruse going. The
Shield has tougher decisions every week.
Along the way there are some competent action and suspense moments. Foot
chases tailing each other create visual suspense and shootouts still manage
to surprise well-versed gangster movie viewers, at least the first few times
heads explode. The ending is pretty outrageous for a Hollywood movie but
you don’t get two and a half hours to set that up.