Starring: Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen, Ann Heche
Director: Mike Newell
Studio: TriStar/Sony Pictures 19438
Video: 2.40:1 enhanced for 16:9 widescreen, 1080p HD
Audio: English PCM Uncompressed 5.1, English DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, English, French
Extras: New featurette: Donnie Brasco: Out From the Shadows; Original featurette, Photo gallery montage, Theatrical trailers
Length: 147 min.
Surely one of the great Mafia movies, along with The Godfather and Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco might be regarded as a sort of chamber music version of the symphonic Goodfellas and the grand opera The Godfather. It is based on the true story of FBI agent Joe Pistone, who worked undercover for six years embedded in a NYC Mafia faction which eventually goes big time during a Mafia civil war. “Donnie” is taken under the wing of aging hitman Lefty – played to perfection by Pacino. Lefty practically adopts Donnie as a sort of replacement for not getting the respect he feels due him after serving the mob bosses for so many years.
Donnie collects more and more evidence, but his work takes its toll on his life and especially his relationship with his wife and children, who he keeps in the dark about his activities for their own protection. He has to leap into some terrible violence to keep in the good stead of the wiseguys, such as helping beat up a Japanese restaurant owner who demands he remove his boots (his secret cassette recorder is hidden in one of them). Also, as he gets in deeper he feels sorry for Lefty, who he fears will eventually be whacked for vouching for a police informer. The gangsters’ leader begins to suspect a mole, and even has Lefty kill one of their members due to unfounded suspicion. Pistone also becomes more and more angry and violent, both from hanging out with his mob cohorts, but also feeling unappreciated for constantly risking his life in ways his FBI handlers don’t realize, plus learning the IRS is now auditing him. He even stops passing on information to the FBI as things come to a head.
A bully Mafia thriller, with superb acting all around. Some of the dialog is classic, such as Pistone’s explanation to his FBI underlings about the multiple meanings of “Forget About It.” The violence is not frequent but it’s plenty bloody. All is made even better with the enhanced resolution transfer (hey, it’s a “made” film!), which looks great except for a slight evidence of film grain in some darker scenes. The uncompressed 5.1 soundtrack was no special improvement since very little use is made of surround possibilities.
– John Sunier