Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5.
USA, 1997. Mandalay Entertainment, Baltimore Pictures, Mark Johnson Productions. Screenplay by Paul Attanasio, based on the book Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life In The Mafia by Joseph D. Pistone, Richard Woodley. Cinematography by Peter Sova. Produced by Louis DiGiaimo, Mark Johnson, Barry Levinson, Gail Mutrux. Music by Patrick Doyle. Production Design by Donald Graham Burt. Costume Design by Aude Bronson-Howard, David C. Robinson. Film Editing by Jon Gregory. Academy Awards 1997. Boston Film Critics Awards 1997. National Board of Review Awards 1997.
Superb dramatization of the true life events involving undercover cop Joseph Pistone’s experiences while investigating a powerful mob boss. Johnny Depp is brilliantly subtle in the role, and he’s matched inch for inch by an unforgettable Al Pacino in the role of the criminal, one which threatens to be another in a long line of gangster turns for him but is actually something completely different. Paul Attanassio’s script, based on Pistone’s autobiography, is riveting, Mike Newell’s direction (which doesn’t shy away from how ugly the seventies really were) completely taut. At the heart of it, though, is a brilliant character study of a man whose undercover life is so attractive and powerful that his own identity starts to be threatened: befriending the big guy makes it more difficult for Depp to finally put the crunch on him, and we’re left breathless waiting to see what route he will take. Anne Heche is also excellent as Depp’s exasperated wife, a woman who isn’t sure if her husband is still the same man she married.