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Review: The Departed

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The departed 

At this point in his illustrious career, it’s hard to imagine Martin Scorsese accepting another filmmaker’s hand-me-downs. Yet in essence, that’s what’s taking place with The Departed, which isn’t an original screen story but rather a remake of a 2002 Hong Kong film titled Infernal Affairs. Working from a script by William Monahan, Scorsese has made a picture that’s more in line with such past mob morality tales as GoodFellas and Mean Streets than with his recent spate of ambitious (and Oscar-lunging) period epics like The Aviator and Gangs of New York. But while The Departed is a strong film, it’s by no means a match for any of those aforementioned titles. Nor is it equal to Infernal Affairs, which wore its sleek 100-minute running time far better than this one navigates its 150-minute length. Set in Boston, this new take casts Jack Nicholson as Frank Costello, the crime lord with the foresight to make sure that one of his protégées, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), is placed in a position to be able to rise through the ranks of the Massachusetts State Police Department. Colin is eventually assigned to the special unit tasked with investigating Costello, an outfit run by the animated Captain Ellerby (Alec Baldwin). Ellerby trusts Colin, little suspecting that his right-hand man is actually the informant. Meanwhile, down the hall, the paternal Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and the blunt Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) are just as determined as Ellerby to nail Costello. To that end, they assign Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) to get his hands dirty enough to convince Costello that he’s a bona fide criminal and worth adding to his band of outlaws. Having been raised on the wrong side of the tracks, Billy has no trouble fitting in, although the strain of having to lead a double life soon wears him down. He strikes up a relationship with the police department’s psychiatrist (Vera Farmiga), not realizing that she’s Colin’s girlfriend. Issues of identity, duplicity and deception remain constants throughout the film, and it’s refreshing to find a stateside remake that for once doesn’t feel the need to dumb down its philosophical musings for the sake of Yank audiences. The violence and vulgarity -- trademarks of this sort of Scorsese outing -- are pitched at operatic levels, and even taking the milieu into consideration, they occasionally verge on overkill. So, too, does the performance by Nicholson, who begins the film as a terrifying villain but winds down as a raving buffoon. The younger actors do a better job maintaining the appropriate levels of intensity. DiCaprio is coiled and edgy, Damon alternates between charismatic and creepy, and Wahlberg (stealing the film) somehow turns surliness into an endearing character trait. ƒç

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