Thursday, February 15, 2007

Bloody in Boston

As far as I know, Boston was the last major American city to have an Irish-American mob that could hold its own against La Cosa Nostra. Until the mid-1990s, that mob was run by an arch-criminal named Whitey Bulger, who managed to corrupt an agent inside the Boston FBI field office. Bulger went on the lam in 1995, and he remains on the run.

DW and I saw "The Departed" on DVD night before last. Jack Nicholson's character is based in part on Bulger. In the movie, Nicholson's character essentially takes Matt Damon's character under his wing from childhood and places him as a mole inside the Massachusetts State Police. Leonardo Di Caprio's character, meanwhile, joins the state police for personal reasons, and is placed as a mole inside the mob. The movie is an increasingly desparate and violent cat-and-mouse game, in which Damon and Di Caprio attempt to smoke each other out. Di Caprio's despair, fear, and paranoia is increasingly visible as his character falls apart emotionally; Damon, on the other hand, is cool as a cucumber, hiding his near-panic behind his slick, cocky exterior. Oh yeah, and they both have sex with the same woman, though that fact is unbeknownst to Damon's character. Well, he knows that he is, not that the other guy is. Also, how many women in America wouldn't mind being with both of those guys? Anyhow, Damon and Di Caprio are stellar in this film, and an angry Mark Wahlberg steals every scene he's in. Nicholson does his best acting since "A Few Good Men," IMHO.

Martin Scorsese's direction is magnificent, particularly at the beginning and end of the film. I read one review suggesting that Scorsese has forgotten how to edit, but I didn't see anything I would have cut. The movie is able to set up the unique, unfamiliar (to me, anyway) environment of South Boston and establish the plotline efficiently and quickly, then dive headlong into the frantic action of the darkly-tinted cat-and-mouse game. This film doesn't remind me of any of Scorsese's other movies, except perhaps for its violence. It has organized crime, like "Casino" and "GoodFellas" (which I've seen about a million times), but this is more an action/suspense picture than a mob movie. DW even compared it to "Casino Royale" in that regard. Man, the final half hour of this movie kept me on the edge of my seat. Everybody needs to see this film. Can you tell I like Scorsese's work?


Anonymous said...

I'm with you for the most part about this movie's strengths. I really enjoyed it. But the last 10 minutes or so I thought really unraveled. It turned into a Hollywood shoot-em-up, and ends up being morally questionable.

I remember watching the live-action (i.e., not the cartoon) Walt Disney "Jungle Book" in the early 1990s, and feeling uncomfortable through the whole last 1/2 hour. It took me a couple of days to figure out why: the climax of the movie is a series of bad guys dying horrible deaths, and the theater errupting in the wild cheers of children and their parents. I have a really hard time with a work of art whose aesthetic payoff is to allow the audience the thrill of revenge by proxy.

"The Departed", although far more sophisticated and with great acting (except for Nicholson, who basically phones in his performance) and great script, ultimately does nothing more than the typical Disney movie in making the audience happy to revel in revenge.

Heather said...

I absolutly loved this movie!