caYeah, I know that the title refers to an Al Pacino line and that this piece is about Robert DeNiro.

DeNiro, who has been wandering through the desert for the last few years, may have recently found a way out. Or maybe not – it’s hard to tell until the movies are released. He’s starring in and directing The Good Shepard, a film about the history of the CIA that could be fantastic. He’s also starring in Sugarland, a Jodi Foster directorial effort about the trials and tribulations of sugarcane workers – again, no shitty slapstick in sight. And since he needs to keep his toes in comedy, it seems, there’s What Just Happened, a funny but truthful look at life in Hollywood, based on a great book by Art Linson.

It looks like an honest to God resurgence after all the Fokker nonsense of the last few years. But today there was a new announcement that makes me wonder how long this will last. The movie is The Winter of Frankie Machine, based on Don Winslow’s yet to be published book. In it, DeNiro would play a Mafia hit man who retires to run a bait shop, but as usual his past catches up with him. There’s no telling what this will be like. In the right hands it could be a wonderful film, in the wrong hands it’s another rote old man action film.

Let’s be hopeful, DeNiro fans. Let’s look at 2006 as a new beginning. And let’s assume the best from The Winter of Frankie Machine.