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Wednesday, November 8, 2006

The Departed — Movie Review

When there are chuckles throughout the theater during the climactic scene of a film where three guys are brutally shot to death, something didn’t work. The Departed didn’t work.

A Good Fellas for the new millennium, The Departed pits an undercover cop, Billy Costigan, working the Irish mafia in Boston against a dirty cop, Colin Sullivan, assigned to take down the crime boss he’s actually working with. Eventually, Sullivan is assigned to find the police department leak (which, of course, is him) that keeps helping the mob boss, Frank Costello, steer clear of the investigation. As his attempts to keep that investigation leading away from him fail, bloodshed escalates.

At first my biggest problem with the film was keeping Constigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Sullivan (Matt Damon) straight. As the film deteriorated into a typical mob movie — everybody dies, and the mobsters mostly hang out and extort the locals — it became the least of my problems.

The violence simply became absurd. Call it realistic if you want, but it seemed to be all about shock value. Even that stopped working after a while, leaving at least the audience I was with amused at the ridiculousness of the number of people getting “whacked.”

Damon and DiCaprio were decent, but the big names in this film just couldn’t save it. Jack Nicholson, playing Costello, seemed like a shell of himself. Martin Sheen was solid as Captain Oliver Queenan, but for me it was just plain odd seeing “President Bartlett” tossed off a building. Mark Wahlberg as Sergeant Dignam didn’t do much for me.

I would say the fatal flaw of the film is that there’s never much reason to care about the characters. Constigan was really the only sympathetic figure, but he’s never really enough of a focus to help the film overcome its flaws.

The Departed goes on too long, which is especially cruel with its weak ending. It’s just not that good.

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