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  • Mike Newell is the weirdest choice for director of a Mafia drama, but he actually makes a terrific fist of it, delivering one of the very best gangster movies ever made. Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Anne Heche and Michael Madsen are all in top form in front of the camera, too.

    Depp plays undercover FBI agent Joseph Pistone in this intriguing true story. Pistone is trying to infiltrate his way into a mob family in order to gather evidence against them. He assumes the identity of "Donnie Brasco" and slowly but surely earns the love and trust of an old-pro hit-man named Lefty Ruggiero (Pacino). As the months go by, Pistone's marriage begins to fall apart as he is away from his wife (Heche) pretty much all the time. The line between his real life and his undercover life blurs together and he finds himself dangerously close to being seduced by the violent Mob lifestyle.

    Donnie Brasco is an extraordinary film in many ways. As already mentioned, the performances are note-perfect. But there's so much more to it than that. The late 70s period details are impeccably captured; the dialogue is extraordinarily raw and realistic; the moral dilemma facing Depp is achingly, agonisingly conveyed. It's such a powerful picture, completely involving, that by the end you find yourself wrapped up in Pistone's predicament, asking yourself what decisions you would make in the same circumstances. Very few movies genuinely inspire you to debate the whats, whys and wherefores of the main character and his actions... but with Donnie Brasco, that's just what you'll find yourself doing.
  • For some reason a Johnny Depp movie is always interesting. Whether it is a biopic about Ed Wood, a dark fairy tale about a man with scissors instead of hands, a movie about the greatest lover the world has ever known or a adventurous story about pirates, Depp's performance alone makes it worth seeing. Here he plays FBI-agent Joe Pistone who goes undercover using the name Donnie Brasco. He becomes a wiseguy with the help of Lefty (Al Pacino), who is sort of a loser wiseguy who desperately needs to be a mentor because most of his mafia family members look down on him. Donnie comes as a gift from heaven and it does not take long before Lefty trusts Donnie completely. The problem for FBI-agent Donnie is that he's starting to like Lefty as well.

    The movie is a gangster movie but has its focus on the relationship between Lefty and Donnie and sometimes on other relationships. Donnie, or Joe, is married to Maggie (Anne Heche) who he hardly sees. He can not exactly tell her what he is doing and sometimes stays away for a couple of weeks. She pretends she is a widow to deal with it. We also learn about the relationships in the mafia family, including new boss Sonny (Michael Madsen).

    The fact that this movie is more about the people and their relationships than about the events is a good thing. Sure movies like 'Goodfellas' are terrific but to see something a little different from time to time is nice as well. If you make a movie about people and their emotions you need to have some good performers to make the scenes believable. I already mentioned Depp but of course we have Pacino here as well. His Lefty is a memorable character and it is Pacino who makes sure that happens, but the fact that Depp is as good and especially believable as heavyweight Pacino says something. Of course we have Madsen who was probably the only right actor for the macho mobster Sonny.

    Director Mike Newell seems to be a strange choice for this sometimes very violent and bloody story since he directed the terrific but sweet 'Four Weddings and a Funeral'. Fortunately it turns out he is the right man for this material, probably because its real subject is not gangsters but, like I said before, the relationships between the characters. 'Donnie Brasco' has enough to offer for people who like the gangster-genre, but even if you are normally not a big fan there is still a chance you might like it.
  • In the late 1970's, FBI agent Joe Pistone poses as jewel expert Donnie Brasco to win the trust of ageing mob middleman Lefty Ruggiero. As time passes Donnie gets tighter and tighter into the mob, rising up when boss Sonny Black gets bumped up. While Donnie puts his life at risk, his real life crumbles as he never sees his wife or children. As he moves upwards, his friend Lefty is bypassed time and time again. As Donnie gets deeper, the FBI start to worry and want to extract him - something that cannot be done without exposing himself and condemning Lefty to death.

    Now that Pirates of the Caribean has made him a bankable star as well as a good actor I decided to dig out some of my old Depp videos and watch them. I have been a Depp fan since the mid-90's when I saw Arizona Dream, Ed Wood and Don Juan all in a period of 6 months -I realised then that this was not only a very talented guy but also one who seemed happy to do whatever interested him rather than whatever was going to make money. This film is in a well known and fairly reliable genre - the Italian American gangster movie but has the strength that it is an engaging true story. The plot follows Joe as he gets in deeper, is suspected, gets involved in battles between bosses and eventually starts to lose himself and forget what side he is actually on. Even though this is a true story, it still basically goes where we expect mob films to go, but it manages to rise above the clichés by having some very good characters and emotional themes.

    The whole gangster thing works and is gripping, but it is the relationship dynamics between Joe and Lefty that made it more interesting. The element of going `native' when undercover has been done plenty of times, but it is the combination of this being fact and Depp's great performance that makes it work well here; we feel for Joe a great deal. On the flipside the film also allows us to feel for the mob, or at least one of them. The majority of the mobsters are the usual stereotypes but Lefty is written with a great deal of sympathy - he is a middleman, taking the risks, doing the dirt but always passed over and having to beg money to keep his bosses happy. These are tragic characters and the film is not the slightly glamorous gangster lifestyle that Pacino has experienced in his Godfather roles. These two characters are well written and it is their subplots that makes the film better than the central plot (which itself is also very good).

    Depp is good and his performance is solid even if it doesn't really rank up their with his best - he lacks his usual flair but he gives the material it's dues. Pacino is of course, wonderful. His character is a far cry from his Godfather work and he manages to bring such pathos to Lefty that it is impossible not to feel for him. The support cast may not have as much in the way of character but they all do well in their roles. Madsen, Kirby, Ivanek, Heche, Miano and others all give good support, but it is Pacino and Depp's film - which is a good thing.

    Overall, the fact that this is a true story makes it more interesting but, while I was watching it I wasn't really thinking about it and was just enjoying the gangster film itself. The basic story is a well worn one but is still delivery well by Newell (who was a very unusual choice for director), but it is the emotion threads involving Joe and Lefty that make the film much more than just another gangster film.
  • Yes, I am going to make the bold claim that this is his best work. "Are you talking about the same Al Pacino that did Scarface, Heat, AND the Godfather movies" you ask. Yes, yes, and let me explain myself. First of all, I want to add that I LOVE Pacino's work. He has such a commanding presence on screen and nobody in cinematic history can scream as well as him (though Gene Hackman is damn good). He can scare the hell out of you with just one crazed look in his eye and he never gives a flat performance (well, except in Revolution).

    Having said that, I think Pacino is incredible in this flick because his character is so understated. While his work often consists of playing flamboyant, over-the-top, and almost cartoonish figures(especially in Scarface and The Devil's Advocate), this film is a change of pace for him. Sure, he's still playing a mobster, but he's not as psychotic as usual, and for once, you get to see the inner struggles of a crook who deep down has a heart of gold (despite all of the murders). Pacino is perfect as Lefty, an aging crimical who wants out of the mob lifestyle, but doesn't know how to do it. Though you see the fast and fun world of mobsters in flicks like Goodfellas, this film gives you a sense that the mob life isn't that glamorous.

    Along with Pacino's acting, Johnny Depp is delectable as Joe Pistone (Donnie Brasco) because you can see his inner torment as well. He knows that he's been assigned to infiltrate the New York mob scene, but he develops such a close bond with Lefty that it's almost hard to bring him down. A very real, human relationship permeates between the two that is very moving. I like how the characters are always joking about being a "wise guy," as it provides some light chuckles, and it also shows that in order to live this lifestyle, you've gotta talk tough and act tough (as if I would know what that's like).

    The supporting cast is particularly noteworthy. Bruno Kirby plays a great weasel, Anne Heche is wonderful as Pistone's neurotic wife (you can understand her suffering, what with being married to an FBI special agent) and Michael Madsen is reliable, once again, as a mobster (honestly, does this guy do anything besides gangster or sci-fi flicks?). Every time I watch this movie I am breathless afterwards. The acting is wonderful, the music is superb, and frankly, I can't believe this stuff actually happened. Then again, I haven't read the book, so I don't know how much of it is true.

    Overall, this movie gets 10 out of 10. I'm shocked it doesn't get more recognition, especially with such prolific actors as Pacino and Depp leading the way. This is a different kind of mob movie, as it shows a more somber side to this way of life, and I recommend it unequivocally.
  • For a movie that's only three years old Donnie Brasco isn't something people talk about all that much. Not exactly setting the box office alight, it's further proof that great pictures don't always translate into great financial concerns.

    Maybe it's the nondescript title - "Donnie Brasco" is hardly awe-inspiring and gives little indication of what the film is about. It turns out Donnie is the undercover name for Joe Pistone (Depp), a FBI agent investigating the Mafia. He makes a connection with "Lefty" (Pacino), which, while his initial integration into the group seems to lack conviction, soon builds up a watchable father-son relationship. Criticisms of the film - such as the forced nature of Pistone's behaviour becoming absorbed into the Mafia mindset - are largely irrelevant as this is a "based on a true story" outing.

    Engrossing and eminently watchable, with first-rate lead performances and able back-up from Michael Madsen, this is an overlooked and extremely worthwhile film. The only complaint? Depp's first scenes, wearing the most fake-looking moustache in the history of the movies. But it detracts little from what is a highly skilled picture. So Fergeddaboudid!
  • I read movie magazines regulary and I came across a review for "Donnie Brasco". I read it and thought "I would like to see that". It isn't really a well known film and I didn't remember it coming out in the cinema. So there I saw it, in my local video rental store, near the bottom shelf and just one copy. I rented it and I watched it. And I have to say it is one of the finest movies I had ever seen. It has drama, comedy, sadness and violence and continues to entertain the viewer until the opening of the end credits.

    The beauty of the film is that although Pacino plays a member of the mob you end up with sympathy with him due to his loyalty to Donnie (Depp). Pacino plays Lefty well. The movie is very funny in parts and sad in others. Lefty is a very funny character and is hard not to like. Michael Madsen is my favourite actor and although you don't see enough of Sonny Black in contrast to his importance in the book, what you do see of him is enjoyable. Although the film ends differently to that in the book it shows the workings of the mafia well. A splendid over-looked movie with a great cast and an atmosphere that drags you in. Yet you have to read the brilliant book to get the full story.
  • In a world filled with overheated, and frequently overpraised, gangster movies, it seems to me that Mike Newell's 'Donnie Brasco', the story of a cop who goes undercover to infiltrate the mob, is arguably overlooked. Based on real life events, it contains great performances from Johnny Depp and Al Pacino, a complex but coherent plot, addresses universal themes (divided loyalties, the evolution of human relationships and behaviour) and the ending is genuinely moving. Perhaps it's not fast-paced enough for devotees of the genre; more likely it "fails" this audience for its very success in portraying the mafia as fundamentally pathetic, whereas most gangster pictures at least partly buy into the glamorous myth. But for me, this a superior film to Scorcese's 'Goodfellas', with a faint note of very black comedy that sounds behind the slaughter. Recommended.
  • On one level, "Donnie Brasco" might just look like another mafia movie. But it's not. It tells the story of FBI agent Joe Pistone (Johnny Depp), who in the late 1970s was hired to infiltrate the mafia. So, he got acquainted with hit-man Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero (Al Pacino). But lo and behold, Joe got too much into the mafia lifestyle, to the point where it dominated his life and kept him from his family. And no one ended up with a very good reward at the end.

    Both Depp and Pacino are about as intense as we expect them to be, with good support from Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, James Russo, Anne Heche and Zeljko Ivanek. With his hair all greased back, Depp looks like the ultimate mafioso. I should identify that there are two scenes that will probably make your skin crawl: the leg scene, and what they do to the Japanese waiter.

    But don't get me wrong. This is a really good movie. It's certainly a less glamorized view of mafia life than most of Al Pacino's movies, and Johnny Depp was certainly showing the same flair for acting that he has brought to the screen for the past 16 years. Very well done.
  • With only one real scene of violence and mayhem in the film, Donnie Brasco relies far more on character development in a story of two men and the planned betrayal of one by another in the line of duty.

    Johnny Depp plays real life FBI undercover agent Joe Pistone who infiltrates the Bonano crime family through the good offices of Lefty Ruggiero, a small time Mafia button man played by Al Pacino. During the five years undercover, Pistone who used the alias of Donnie Brasco was responsible for about 200 federal indictments because of the work he did. It took a terrible strain on him and his family as the film so aptly demonstrates.

    It must have been like old home week for Johnny Depp who made his acting bones playing a youthful undercover cop in the television series 21 Jump Street. But the difference between Officer Tom Hanson going undercover for a couple of weeks at some high school and agent Pistone living and working with the wise guys for five years afraid of being found out is the difference between Donald Duck and Donald Trump.

    Depp's performance as Pistone/Brasco is conveyed as much by body language and closeups as with dialog. He'd like very much to return to his wife and three daughters and live a normal life, but the demands of the job make it impossible. According to Wikipedia's article on Pistone he was uniquely qualified for his undercover assignment having lived and grown up among wise guys in New Jersey. He was familiar with all the Mafia culture and could blend in easily. The strain shows on him in his scenes with wife Anne Heche, only someone with a real gift for acting could make those scenes so real.

    Depp is matched by Al Pacino as the luckless Lefty Ruggiero. In the Mafia code he vouches for Depp and if Depp betrays trust in any way, Pacino's marked for death.

    Lefty Ruggiero is a hired killer with as he boasts 27 contract kills to his credit. Yet he's also a family man with a lot of problems as is Depp. Even though the man is in fact evil, Pacino does make him a likable sort. It's why Depp is dreading the day he's out from undercover because it means certain death for a man who's grown to be his friend.

    Except when the crew that Depp and Pacino are part of do ambush a rival group before in fact they do it to them, Donnie Brasco is a fairly non violent film for a gangster story. Donnie Brasco emphasizes character development and a good script as opposed to bloody mayhem.

    I think you'll like the story about a man who turned a friend into the biggest mutt in the history of the Mafia.
  • First rate mafia drama connects on a deeper level than most. Its cinematography may not have the moody, noirish atmosphere that makes The Godfather so appealing, but despite its slick Hollywood look, it seems to attain such penetrating truth (this, perhaps, has a little to do with its being based on a book by the real life main character). The central situation of the aging mafia man taking under his confidence and vouching for an undercover FBI agent, and that a bond forms between the two men is a great one. The performances are absolutely superb. Particularly the two men who the story centres on, Joe Pistone, a.k.a Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp, going for realism in this role, is incredible. It begins and ends with a closeup of his eyes - this movie would be nothing without him) and mafia man "Lefty" (Pacino, who gives us one of his finest characterisations - best bit, his close-up after Donnie is asked to shake hands by a certain character on a certain boat). The vividness of the characters in this movie seems to owe a great deal to the superb screenplay (again, credit to the real-life source material). Recurring catch-phrases make it easy for us to get to know characters, and wonderful little touches give the story such a resonance, and make it ring true: like Lefty's smoking inside the car when driving with Brasco and accusing Brasco of trying to kill him with the draft when he opens a window to let some smoke out, and the portrait of Lefty, the opposite of how we imagine a mafia veteran, as a vulnerable, often emotional man.

    Deserves at least four stars. Recommended to anyone (except, obviously kids, for a few scenes unsuitable to them).
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This movie was just plain good. The plot was interesting and fast-paced, the characters were in-depth and realistic, the acting was good, and the action was great. It is a sad movie, however. No matter how you look at it, these things actually happened. Those men really did die. The true story that "Donnie Brasco" is based on makes the movie have more depth, and obviously, more reality. This movie also does a very good job of portraying the 70's, the time period in which the actual events took place. It is an exciting, dangerous, and wild movie, but very down-beat. Once you're in the mob, it's very hard to get out.
  • This is a fascinating film, but I felt that it was unforgivably (and unforgettably) marred by Johnnie Depp's extreme comeliness. His acting was great, but c'mon! He has the skin of a model--not a single facial flaw?! He doesn't even have crow's feet or visible pores! Devoid of the leathery skin so characteristic of the true gangsters, whose excessive use of alcohol no doubt contributes to the premature dehydration of their skin, and whose deeds weigh heavily enough on their conscience to cause deeply furrowed brows, Depp looks as though he has spent his life at a health spa drinking mineral water! Really, too much! When I watched the documentary included on the DVD, I found that, sure enough, the true Joe Pistone actually looks as though he could possibly be a gangster. That was how he succeeded in feigning fraternity with Lefty for six years. Johnnie Depp? Don't think so. Totally implausible. Invraisemblable. A major casting flaw in an otherwise excellent film.

    The story is a genuine tragedy, no doubt. And Al Pacino did a wonderful job as always--though I did note that in a couple of scenes he was empirically distinguishable from Rickie Roma in GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS. I guess that's okay, though, since Roma was corrupt in his own sort of way. In other scenes, I saw the protag from SCENT OF A WOMAN. I guess that makes sense, too, however, since Lefty was aging and full of regrets as well.

    Definitely worth seeing and very thought-provoking, but it takes a real effort to suspend disbelief when it comes to Depp's role. Again, not a criticism of his acting, but of the casting and/or make-up crew. I am confident that his image could have been roughed up, but for some inscrutable reason, this was not done.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I have not read the book but understand Pistone was undercover for six years vs two. How the FBI could expect a family to stay together under these difficult circumstances is unconscionable. The compensation appears relatively dismal compared to the life risking role expected of it's agents.

    However, this did make for an excellent portrayal of the many subtle intrigues of remaining in good favor with criminal elements. I enjoyed the New York City street scenes and emphasis on a family life with fellow mobsters and how they seemed to care, unless of course they were "sent for".

    I noticed too many scenes were artificially created to induce suspense to see whether they uncovered the rat, and when and if they were going to kill Donnie. After you see it once, you definitely notice the annoying dialogue to make you think it could happen at any second, when nothing was further from the truth.

    The treatment of Donnie by Lefty seemed insincere when he was clearly aware of the great potential of his newest ward. I thought there would have been more teasing and chiding than outright insulting insipid remarks. This detracted from the reality of how many people back east act towards each other.

    The transformation of Agent Pistone to Donnie Brasco was very well done. He managed to alter many aspects of speech, gait, motions, and reactions. Depp is a respectable ally to Pacino's Lefty.

    High recommend for discovering a unique layer of an undercover agent's life and it's repercussions both emotionally and in the criminal world.
  • Donnie Brasco

    There seems too little space left to work on in a genre that is introduced so many times even repeated too and still even though being of a familiar premise it has some new shoes to fill into it which eventually results into low on drama or even entertainment. Donnie Brasco is an overlong stretched script that is predictable and flat out exhausting in its first act only to discover that the rest of it was just mundane. Mike Newell picks out his favourite details and sequences from the book and executes it with all the conviction but in the end there just isn't enough material to keep the audience investing in it. The only part that got it right was the star cast and boy oh boy what a star cast it is, Johnny Depp and Al Pacino face to face on screen encounters are the only highlights about it. But how much can a performance carry around a movie on its shoulder, Donnie Brasco lacks better editing, gripping screenplay and a soul.
  • This is based on a true story about a FBI agent who went undercover in the mob . But there's a couple problems with this type of tale .

    1 ) You find yourself comparing it with other true life mob tales like GOODFELLAS

    2 ) Almost all of the audience tension should revolve around the cop coming close to getting his cover blown

    It's interesting to note that the production of this film was held back due to the success of GOODFELLAS . Good idea because despite its own merits DONNIE BRASCO would have been viewed as a poor relation to the classic Scorsese mob flick . But even so you do find yourself comparing the two movies of which this one is the lesser . It's mainly due to the fact that GOODFELLAS opens with a sickening execution and never lets up on the shocks while DONNIE BRASCO pulls its feet very slowly . There's a lot of bad language but that's mainly due to their being a large number of talkative scenes with very little action until the second half of the movie with many of the talky scenes revolving around Donnie's home life

    As for " the undercover cop is going to get his cover blown " subplot I was reminded of other movies like the classic WHITE HEAT and the little known Brit thriller ID and again this movie pales slightly in comparison with Donnie having to come up with a smart move to keep his identity secret only one time . Of course being a true story I shouldn't criticise too much since the producers were probably aware of this and didn't want to embellish the integrity of the facts

    I did give this seven out of ten which means the positives outweigh the negatives. This is the type of movie that is almost entirely carried by the cast . Pacino once again plays a gangster but he's not some psychotic mafia don here he's more of a middle ranking gangster who loses his status to a young turk and plays his character in a far more subtle manner than what we're used to . Johnny Depp is convincing enough ( He should since the movie revolves around Donnie ) and Michael Madsen is very good , again his playing is far more subtle than what might be expected . The violent scenes despite taking a long time to come are as brutal and as memorable as anything you'd see in a Scorsese movie

    All in all DONNIE BRASCO is worthy of your time but if it'd been about twenty minutes shorter with most of the edited out scenes having involved Donnie's domestic friction this might have actually have been a classic true life gangster film
  • Interesting and thought-provoking flick film that had a great importance of wide range on subsequent films and TV series as the ¨Sopranos¨ . Powerful portrait of an undercover agent along with the rise and fall of a gangster extraordinarily performed by Johnny Depp and Al Pacino respectively . This is one of the greatest mobster movies and a high watchable story ; being an expertly directed film by Mike Newell and made Johnny Depp a superstar . An FBI undercover agent named Pistone infiltrates the mob and finds himself identifying more with the mafia life to the expense of his regular one . Using the name Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp) , he befriends a 'made' mafioso Benjamin 'Lefty' Ruggiero (it is an amalgam of the real "Lefty" played by Al Pacino and the real "Sonny Black" Napolitano performed by Michael Madsen) . Brasco becomes tight as the group goes about collecting cash for 'the bosses' . A deep dilemma is afforded to Donnie, who knows if he walks away from the mobster family , Lefty will be the one killed . Brasco is married and has three children but he is away for months at a time eventually leading to his wife (Anna Heche) asking for a divorce . The mission forces him to virtually leave his family , living among the ¨wise guys¨ , as he turns more and more part of the Mob group.

    Excellent and top-of-the-range mobster movie contains top-notch performances , pretentious familiar drama , thrills , fast-paced , action , being richly narrated and including an emotive final . Although also packs strong scenes , violence and profanities , as the word 'fuck' is used 185 times . Fresh and intelligent screenplay by Paul Attanasio, based on real N.Y.C's Italian Mafia families , including interesting characterizations taken from Joseph Pistone's memoir . Johnny Depp's sensational performance , he met with the actual Joseph D. Pistone a number of times to gain knowledge and expertise for the role , he also took gun firing lessons from the FBI . Top-drawer acting by Al Pacino as a low-level hoodlum who becomes Depp his protégé . Secondary cast is frankly excellent as Michael Madsen , Zeljko Ivanek , Robert Miano , James Russo , Zack Grenier , and brief interventions by then unknown Paul Giamatti , Tim Blake Nelson and almost extra Gretchen Moll . Special mention to Bruno Kirby as Nicky , when the project was in its first stages, Joe Pesci was the first and main choice for Nicky , but after the release of Goodfellas, the idea gradually faded . At various points Tom Cruise, John Travolta and Andy Garcia were all previously attached to star ; Stephen Frears to direct ; however getting direction the British Mike Newell . Atmospheric and evocative cinematography by Peter Soba , despite the fact that this was filmed in Super 35, "Filmed in Panavision" is listed in the end credits . Emotive as well as thrilling musical score by Patrick Doyle . The motion picture was very well directed by Mike Newell (Prince of Persia , 4 weddings and a funeral , Mona Lisa smile)

    ¨Donnie Brasco¨ , rating : 7,5 . Well worth watching , above average ; the picture will appeal to gangster genre buffs and Johnny Depp/Al Pacino fans .
  • Warning: Spoilers
    I'm a big gangster film fan, always have and always will. this particular gangster film is not my best but still gets ten stars due to its flawless scenes and the effort made by Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen and Anne Heche. i do consider this movie to be a mini masterpiece, its stuns me that the film didn't bring much hype behind it.

    this is a true story in which a cop (Johnny Depp) goes undercover as alias "Donnie Brasco" so he can become friends with the mob boss's and infiltrate there schemes and arrest them.

    this really is a fantastic movie that i'll remember for a long time. its not as good as other gangster masterpieces such as casino, god father, departed, good fellas and so forth. but this film will leave you wanting more gangster action. i haven't seen the directors cut version of this yet unfortunately but hoping to do so soon......... 10/10........j.d Seaton
  • There is something sad, indeed pathetic, watching actors playing racketeers. Even more pathetic is the portrayal of a police officer actually infiltrating a gang without being found out by the gangsters. Asking the audience to empathize with a gangster is a tall order. Okay, gangsters are people too and have their good sides but to ask the audience to believe that an undercover police officer and informant can actually develop some kind of fondness for the target of his investigation is stretching things a bit far. Johnny Depp was woefully miscast for the role of the undercover officer. There is no way that Mr. Depp's character as played by Mr. Depp would not have been quickly found out. He just does not come across as a tough guy which is what he would have to have been in a world populated by tough guys. His character is too polished and stands out like a proverbial sore thumb. Al Pacino gives a far more credible performance as one of the tough guys. Indeed, he should have played Brasco. In Stalag 17 the informant was the soldier who everyone trusted. Why? Because he fit right in with all the other soldiers. The same cannot be said for Donnie Brasco in this movie who is so obviously not a gangster that it's almost laughable.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Al Pacino is riveting, as usual, in the co-lead role of "Benjamin 'Lefty' Ruggerio." To me, he was the highlight of this gangster movie. He played a bad guy but one the viewer could sympathize with, and sad to say - that's just plain wrong. "Lefty" murdered something like 26 people, and brags about it several times in the film......and we're supposed to feel sorry for him? Well,

    Pacino is so good actor, he pulls it off, Johnny Depp, meanwhile, was okay but I just never felt he was right for this part. He's a great actor, and maybe I'm just used to him playing strange roles instead of an undercover cop. In other words, his character wasn't convincing to me. Having said that. however, I thought he and Pacino's characters played off each other very well. The relationship between the two was outstanding to watch develop. It also contributed largely to the depressing ending as Lefty finds out Donnie's true identity.

    This is frightening film for several reasons, mainly the tension of seeing if undercover agent "Donnie Brasco/Joe Pistone" will succeed or be brutally exposed and killed by a ruthless band of gangsters, led by the ultra-violent "Johnny Black." Michael Madsen plays the latter. Is there an actor who plays so many brutal characters, effectively, as Madsen? The story is shocking in parts for its violence (i.e. the Asian restaurant scene) and is extremely profane throughout, so be warned if that is an issue with you.

    This is not a film that will leave a good taste with you, especially with the downer of an ending.....but, hey, that's life. It's also about 15 minutes too long. We had the stereotypical cop-marriage woes soap opera parts, too, which could have been eliminated. Also, the character of the head FBI guy Mr. Pistone dealt with was ludicrous. Leave it to Hollywood to make someone of governmental/police authority one of the most unlikable guys in the film.

    Still, if you like "Pacino, Depp," and the like, you should be entertained my this based-on-a-true story film.
  • =G=1 July 2004
    "Donnie Brasco" tells of an FBI agent (Depp) who infiltrates a NYC mob crew where his allegiance is tested by his growing affection for his aging wiseguy mentor (Pacino) to the dismay of his wife (Heche). The film is chock full of stereotypes with the same old character actor faces we've seen playing mob types before and lacks the grit or edge one would expect of a crime flick based on a true story. The film's matter-of-fact approach to life in the mob keeps emotions in tow with little stretching required of the players and provides a sort of "business as usual" backdrop for the real crux of the story, the waxing relationship between Depp and Pacino and the waning relationship between Depp and Heche. The result is moderately captivating 2 hour film with respectable marks from critics and public which should make a worthwhile small screen diversion for crime buffs. (B)
  • Donnie Brascoe is one of those movies that should have been much better than it turned out to be. The back up players in the Mob were not in the least convincing ..particularly Michael Madsen. Al Pacino and Johnny Depp do enough to make this Mike Newells direction needed to be more taught...and crisp. If one of the definitions of a great movie can watch it multiple times....then this is far from being a great movie. The story itself is handled sloppily and the use of the word "forgetaboutit" (in an average script) becomes tedious. It is...of course ...saved by the two leads. But even above average acting by the two "stars" is simply not enough.
  • I read Joe Pistone's wonderful book from cover to cover in three days, which detailed every moment, every emotion, every amazing event from his mind-blowing six-year stint with the mafia. Now, obviously a film cannot include everything the book can, but at least select the good parts!! Donnie's relationship with Sonny Black and the way it develops would have been a very welcome addition for one.

    Johnny Depp delivers a solid and convincing performance, but I was less than impressed by Al Pacino who gives an uneven and frankly (by his standards) a sub-par outing, ditto for Michael Madsen. Anne Heche's emotion-filled and strong role is the main highlight for me.

    My advice would be please read the book, first if you haven't seen this film, and if you have watched it, please read the book so you can appreciate the full extent of Agent Joseph D. Pistone's amazing work.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    FBI Agent Joe Pistone goes undercover in a section of the New York City mob.

    Using the name Donnie Brasco, he befriends mafioso Benjamin 'Lefty' Ruggiero. As time goes by, Pistone begins to identify with, and care for his mafia friends, especially Lefty.

    Pistone is married and has children, but he is away for weeks or months at a time, eventually leading to the break up of his marriage.

    When he stops reporting to the FBI, his superiors decide the time has come to pull the plug on the operation......

    Back when this was first released, I thought this was one of the most interesting, well acted crime thrillers I'd ever seen. It was unlike Depp to star in something that appeared to be so mainstream, and the thought of Pacino playing an empathetic protagonist seemed like the perfect idea.

    Seeing it with fresh eyes nearly twenty years later, it's clear that Newell wanted to make his Goodfellas, and Pacino was his ticket to success.

    It has the music, it has the great cast, and it has the unpredictable violence. But what it doesn't have, is the passion that Scorcese put into that masterpiece, and the biggest problem with the film is Pacino.

    He isn't terrible, it's just that he appears to be doing nothing more than parody, and if he says 'forget about it' once, he must say it literally 70-80 times. And that's just him.

    There is one scene where Depp is discussing with, of all people Paul Giamatti, and Tim Blake-Nelson the different ways of saying 'forget about it' and what it connotes to, and it's a wonder that they keep straight faces throughout.

    Thank goodness for Madsen, who is clearly the best thing in the film, and again, this is lazy casting. But thank heavens this was the time in his career when he actually put in a good performance, and whenever he's on screen, the film comes alive.

    Pistone is portrayed as a selfish individual, yes he gets in too deep, but there's no reason to act like a child every time you interact with the real world.

    So all in all, it's not terrible, it's just nowhere near as good as it thinks it is, hence why you never really see it quoted like the film it's trying to be.

    It's been forgot about.
  • If I hadn't seen the biker flik - I would have given this a higher rating. But its five years on, Madsens still in it, and the idea of a cop infiltrating a group of misfits, conditioned to do his duty at the same time as mingle with the criminal element, and then adjust to the new identity, is an age old storyline Yeah there are the greats in the film, yeah the main actors do their best to follow a script based on a true story, yeah there's an element of action and horror that keeps the audience watching to the end. But the portrayed story of this is soooo close to Chasing the Shadow, that I would have thought that anyone trying it again five years down the line would have adapted it accordingly for real originality (if you can make U571 or The Patriot, then anything is possible to make an original storyline appeal to the masses).

    I do like Pacino and Depp in a lot of productions, but this one has the elements of bringing them together because, well, they had to appeal to the young and older audience to make a blockbuster.

    Go have a look at the 1992 one with Mr Sheen, its more in line with a true story (it doesn't have sawing people into pieces though), and it works better for me as its got the reality of dealing with two ends of the legal spectrum.
  • 'Donnie Brasco' makes a worthwhile contribution to the Mob genre. While it may not sit on the pantheon alongside 'The Godfather' and 'Goodfellas', it bridges a frequently overlooked dichotomy of lawmen and lawbreakers, dividing the viewer's loyalties. (This theme was built upon a decade later in 'American Gangster', although the line between good and evil was drawn more starkly in Ridley Scott's film.) Al Pacino delivers a refreshingly reserved performance as 'Lefty', an ageing gangster living in a pitiful way. The story of how he takes Johnny Depp's 'Donnie Brasco' (the pseudonym of an undercover FBI agent) under his wing, willingly jeopardising his own position, unfolds very enjoyably. We soon find (I did, at least) that the intricacies of Mob life are of secondary interest; even the precarious life of 'Donnie', our protagonist, takes a backseat to the plight of 'Lefty'. However, Depp's character is not uninteresting, simply less sympathetic. The man better known for portraying pirates and fantasy eccentrics plays the lead role with unlikely ease, and the transformation of 'Donnie' from a law-keeping man of integrity to a confidant of killers is paced very finely. Mike Newell's biographical crime film is considerably more contemplative than most other titles in the genre, and my 8/10 rating comes easily.
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