- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006

Gangs, mean streets and raging bullies — Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” could seem like the same old, same old from the best director without an Oscar on his mantle. But few auteurs dig deeper into the wasted human soul than Mr. Scorsese, so for an hour-plus we’re witness to a crime drama like no other.

Then Mr. Scorsese and his megawatt cast fall back to earth, ending their epic saga with the mandatory array of guns and triple turns.

“The Departed,” a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong thriller “Infernal Affairs,” follows a group of law enforcement officers trying to nab a Boston godfather named Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson).

To do so, officials coax rookie cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) to go undercover to infiltrate Frank’s gang. But Frank has a mole of his own. The Irish mobster befriended a young and impoverished Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) years ago. Today, Colin is a star within the Boston Police Department’s Special Investigative Unit, and he makes sure to tell Frank whenever the long arm of the law is coming for him.

Moles can’t stay buried forever, and soon both sides realize their secrets are being compromised.

“The Departed” tackles bloodlines, loyalty, faith and the law with the kind of world-weary cynicism that we’ve come to expect from Mr. Scorsese.

In lesser hands, “The Departed’s” plot convolutions would have left audiences adrift. Yet the director keeps every scene so fundamentally alive that we swallow just about anything thrown our way.

That includes the sultry psychologist (Vera Farmiga) who romances both Colin and Billy without so much as a second thought to morality. Miss Farmiga’s role is more metaphor than real person, assigned to hammer home the point that no one in this yarn is to be trusted.

As if two-plus hours of this sour saga could leave any other taste in our mouths.

Mr. DiCaprio’s Billy stands the tallest here, both for the character’s vulnerability and for the actor’s ability to bury his younger, less mature instincts.

The recent “All the King’s Men” showed us the folly of hiring British actors to feign delicate Southern accents. Here, Mr. Scorsese leans hard on Mr. Damon and scene- stealer Mark Wahlberg as a roughneck cop, making the most of their Boston roots.

Mr. Nicholson’s Irish mafioso is simply the umpteenth version of Jack being Jack. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but given the projet’s scope it’s a shame that the Oscar winner didn’t give us a villain for the ages.

Instead, we get Frank making not so nice with his gal pal and flashing a faux phallus for shock value. The result is more sideshow than peek into Frank’s repellent ego.

And let’s not forget the film’s second-tier stars, like Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen, who bring black humor and gravitas to a story already brimming with both.

William Monahan’s script gives us so many great lines you wonder why more films can’t startle us the same way.

Martin Scorcese boasts one of the great filmographies of his generation of directors. The exceptional achievement brings with it commensurately high expectations. With “The Departed,” the director, remarkably enough, surpasses them — until an anticlimactic final act heavy on the gunplay but short on satisfying narrative resolution.


TITLE: “The Departed”

RATING: R (Violence, gore, sexual situations, drug use and adult language)

CREDITS: Directed by Martin Scorsese. Written by William Monahan based on “Infernal Affairs” by screenwriters Siu Fai Mak and Felix Chong. Original music by Howard Shore.

RUNNING TIME: 148 minutes

WEB SITE: https://thedeparted.



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