STUDIO: Warner Bros.
MSRP: $34.98
RUNNING TIME: 152 Minutes

  • Additional scenes with introductions by Martin Scorsese
  • Feature-length TCM profile "Scorsese on Scorsese"
  • The Story of the Boston Mob: the real-life gangster behind Jack Nicholson’s character
  • Crossing Criminal Cultures: how Little Italy’s crime and violence influence Scorsese’s work

The Pitch

Infernal Affairs, a good Asian crime flick done by the lord of crime flicks with the best cast one could assemble and the best resources one could hope for.

The Humans

Jack Nicholson. Leonardo DiCaprio. Matt Damon. Mark Wahlberg. Alec Baldwin. Ray Winstone. Vera Farmiga. Anthony Anderson. Martin Sheen. Mark Rolston. James Badge Dale.

A few good limericks, a round of drinks, and Dinklage became the third member of the team.

The Nutshell

The funny thing about The Departed is that it sneaks up on you like a thief in the night, except the thief is walking around in broad daylight screaming to the cheap seats about how much of a thief he is and how unmercifully empty everyone’s piggy bank is going to be before proceeding to steal every last dime right under their noses just as he promised. Everyone knew that because it was a Martin Scorsese film it was going to be unmissable. Every one knew it’d be entertaining because it’s a remake of an Asian action/thriller starring pretty much everyone a dream cast would feature. Everyone knew that because it’s a Martin Scorsese crime flick edited by Thelma Schoonmaker and shot by Michael Ballhaus it’d be shit hot in the A/V departedment. We knew it. How could it not be a blast?

The thing is, the first viewing of The Departed is truly that thief. It’s so damn funny and so damn cool that the actual merit and quality of the film and its amazing script go somewhat unnoticed. How can this film be THIS good?

Scorsese shot some scenes for Cady Rising on off-days.

The Lowdown

Devin reviewed this quite sensationally here, so it’d be fruitless to try and deliver the definitive review of The Departed. Instead I’ll give you my take, the take of a man who isn’t tall.

The plot is simple. Sort of. Helped by mobster Francis Costello (Nicholson), young Colin Sullivan (Damon) rises to the top echelon of the detective division of the Boston police department, a mole in the exact position Costello needs to operate in the free and clear. On the opposite side of things another superlative potential cop by the name of Billy Costigan (DiCaprio) is sent by the fatherly and driven Oliver Queenan (Sheen) to work in Costello’s crew, a mole in the exact position Queenan needs to bust open the Irish mob. It’s duality and shit!

Of course, there’s more to it, but the idea of two men having to wear two faces in the most dangerous situations possible is the throbbing heart of The Departed, a film seething in meaty and often hilarious dialogue where one moment of levity is sent packing by electric and unflinching brutality. It’s vintage Scorsese, but none of his films have been this fun before and it makes one wonder if the thought of Scorsese living closer to the mainstream is such a bad idea. It surely does make a compelling argument, because few other crime films come close. Honestly, imagine the diner sequence from Heat stretched out to a feature length with nice doses of the gun battle tossed in for extra measure. That’s what it’s like to see this cast playing cops and robbers.

"Don’t lose focus just because you’ve lost focus, kid."

As far as performances go, pick someone and most likely the answer is that they delivered on a variety of fronts. Matt Damon plays against type as a sly villain, infusing the performance and character with so much cunning and personality that the idea of good and bad becomes a mire. A throughline
stems from a line uttered by Nicholson in the first act; "When I was your age they would say we can become cops, or criminals. Today, what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?" and the way that theme bisects the DiCaprio and Damon characters and really allows the audience to travel along the shades of gray with them. Under the assured performance of Damon, there were times when the bad guy was the one you can’t help but root for but the same goes for Leo. Recently, especially with Scorsese, he’s an actor who is really taking advantage of shedding the boyish looks that helped his wallet but hurt his credibility as an adult actor. Here, he’s remarkable. In the same ways that Damon is sneaky and polished as Colin, DiCaprio is rough around the edges and volatile. It’s hard to pinpoint which actor does better because they’re both so strong. In many ways we’re looking at the two strongest actors of their generation not only entering their prime way ahead of schedule, but doing so with the movie industry at their beck and call. It’s exciting to watch, especially alongside their peer Mark Wahlberg, who made the most of a small part and was recently rewarded with an Oscar nomination of his own.

"Please don’t notice my enormous head." ….. "How drunk was I to go home with Easter Island?"

Truly, the entire cast is on point and it’s great to see Nicholson do "big" and still not be a caricature. The same goes for Alec Baldwin, who everyone seems to finally realize is a genius. Martin Sheen delivers much needed gravity and emotional warmth to the film and folks like Ray Winstone, Mark Rolston, and David Patrick O’Hara really fill the margins perfectly. Usually absent from praise of the film is Vera Farmiga, who has the unenviable task of handling the relationship stuff in a guy film but she does it well.

Funnily enough, through all of this the star is still Marty, which should convey to you the man’s presence and skill in a film as loaded with talent and wattage as any in recent memory. It’s a Martin Scorsese film that balances the electricity of his best crime films while also showing some of the more avant textures he gave films like Bringing Out the Dead. In many ways this is the culmination of a career in crime movies, the meat and gristle mixed with the entertaining and mainstream. As I said before, this is a secret weapon of a film. It seems like just a really cool and fun ride but upon revisits it gets better and better and better and more than any Scorsese script since Taxi Driver a lot of the kudos belong to the script. Tack on William Monahan to the Scorsese staple of collaborators who really execute the director’s vision to the nth degree, because this thing somehow manages to travel along the same lines as Internal Affairs yet becomes something much bigger in the process.

"I hate people with Red Bull penis!"

This film is a clasic and I have watched it five times since the DVD arrived and couple with the five theatrical visits I have to say that it may ultimately challenge Goodfellas as my favorite of his films. it’s already a ‘Top 25′ film for me of all time, a fact which surprises the living heck out of me. This simply should not have workedas well as it does but rest assured, once this DVD is in your collection it will be one you visit again and again and again.

We should all be so good as to still challenge ourselves in our mid-60’s as Scorsese has. There’s every other filmmaker in the world and then there’s him. May he live forever.

Damon does a live performance of the script for Gerry.

The Package

The deleted scenes on this disc make me sad. In a good way. Why the heck weren’t they in the movie? The film was already long, so what was a few extra minutes going to do, especially ones as fun as the scene between Alec Baldwin and Matt Damon and the really solid flashback scene between Billy Costigan’s father and Francis Costello. There’s quite a bit of memorable stuff here, very little of which is even close to being "fat". It makes one wonder just how much stuff still hides from us on all the great Scorsese flicks.

"You’re shittin’ me. What, you can see Waldo in this picture?"

Otherwise, the stuff that remains isn’t as much about The Departed as it is about Boston’s crime scene (great stuff by the way, especially the Whitey Bulger stuff. If you haven’t read the amazing Paddy Whacked, order it from Amazon right now) and Scorsese himself. For a 2-disc set there’s surprisingly little material about the making of the film or the foreign film it’s a remake of. Instead there’s some very interesting material but not as much as you’d expect about the actual feature.

The Scorsese on Scorsese feature-length documentary is unmissable, but obviously not really a part of The Departed, just a really terrific look at the man’s work.

Could another dip be on the way, or is this just a case where the material speaks for itself and a case of giving the audience a nice DVD package with more timeless special features or a harbinger? Time will tell, but I don’t think people will be too upset that that nabbed this disc whether or not another comes down the pike.

A marvelous film. A solid DVD.

9.5 out of 10