Viewed – 19 April 2015 Netflix
Sometimes there is a reason you don’t get around to watching a particular movie. Maybe it’s just passed you by, other movies have caught your interest more … or something is trying to tell you, it’s not really as good as you’ve heard. This is one such movie.
Johnny Depp plays undercover FBI agent Donnie Brasco who gets embroiled in the goings on of a gang in New York and gets mentored by aging mobster Lefty (Al Pacino). Based in a true story this is of course an intriguing set up and makes for at first engrossing viewing. Pacino this time around isn’t playing the boss, the main guy, but more an always overlooked and fairly disgruntled ‘hood with one eye on a boat trip out of town, and another on the boss’s job. It’s definitely an interesting change of pace for the usually loud and brash actor. Depp is the confident, slightly cock-sure guy who thinks he’s got it all under control, as his family life begins to fall apart and he gets pulled further and further into the underworld. Michael Madsen is on hand as the guy everyone fears and looks up to.
Depp & Pacino’s friendship holds this together well, but isn’t the most convincing, as Lefty seems to take much of Donnie at face value despite many moments that should have lead him to question the guy’s identity. There is however plenty of tension as Donnie juggles his family life with that of the mob and tries to keep one step ahead of everyone else as the FBI increasingly pressure him for results.
The biggest issue is the supporting cast. The surrounding actors are plucked from the poor-man’s mob actor barrel, lacking much of the menace or presence of a Joe Pesci or Harvey Keitel. British director Mike Newell goes for a realistic style and avoids much of the grandeur or energy of other great mob movies like Goodfellas. With only smattering of violence and a script that often felt like it was satirizing the world it was depicting (how many times do we hear ‘forget about it’ ?), something about this just never came to life. Add an ending that seriously lacked the big pay-off I’d been lead to believe was coming … and I came away rather disappointed.
Verdict: 2.5 /5