Director: Mike Newell
Screenwriter: Paul Attanasio
Based on: Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia by Joseph D. Pistone and Richard Woodley
Starring: Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen
If you’re looking for a very good movie about real life mobsters, look no further. This is your movie.
Based on the real life story of FBI agent Joe Pistone, this movie is visceral and heart-breaking. Pistone is posing as a mobster, Donnie Brasco, the jewelry man. He gets in deep-too deep, eventually, and in a true life-imitates-art fashion, all but becomes one of the men he is trying to bust, even as he comes to care for Lefty, the hitman who vouched for him and will be put to death when Pistone eventually withdraws from his undercover operation.
This movie is most assuredly not for the faint of heart. The violence in it is serious and all-too-real, depicting events that really happened, including the savage beating of an innocent Japanese man, a three-time hit on some other mobsters, and the disposal of their bodies involving hacksaws. However, the violence is never too excessive or unnecessary, which helps keep the reality in check and makes it all the more uncomfortable to watch. Strangely enough, the violence is actually crucial to the plot in most cases. The beating shows Pistone becoming one of them, as his wife puts it so blatantly near the end, and the body disposal scene reveals how very deep Pistone has gotte into this situation as well as showing the horrors he had to do to stay undercover and not expose himself—sawing up human remains. He’s in it too deep, he finds out then.
The acting in this one is superb—top notch performances by all, the two most notable being, of course, Al Pacino and Johnny Depp. Pacino as the aging hitman is probably my favorite role I’ve ever seen him do, including over Michael Corleone in The Godfather. Depp delivers as Pistone/Brasco, a young man struggling to balance his real life with the one he’s currently living. But not to be left out is Madsen, who plays the nasty Sonny Black, the vicious mobster who has no scruples.
My rating: Five out of five for its genre. Gut-wrenching, tense, heart-breaking, and all too real.
Feel free to ask any other questions regarding the movie.