|Directed by:||Mike Newell|
|Written by:||Joseph D. Pistone, Richard Woodley, Paul Attanasio|
|Cast:||Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, James Russo, Anne Heche, Zeljko Ivanek, Gerry Becker, Robert Miano, Brian Tarantina, Rocco Sisto, Zach Grenier, Walt MacPherson, Ronnie Farer, Terry Serpico|
I wanted to watch this one for the longest time, but just never got around to doing it. It had so many things I like - the mafia, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen and Johnny Depp - so I was excited to finally get the chance to check it out. Unfortunately I almost regret doing so.
Donnie Brasco is one disappointing mess. While the audio sync on the Netflix version of the movie that I got was off, I'm not going to hold that against the actual film. What I will hold against it audio wise is the horrible sound effects. I swore I could've been watching an old school kung-fu flick with the audio choices they made. One scene in particular where Madsen slaps/punches one of the fellow mobsters in the face actually made me laugh out loud from the sound effect. This movie was made in 97 and I'm pretty sure it wasn't supposed to be a parody, so there's absolutely no excuse.
'Parody' unfortunately reaches out to more of this movie than just some of the sound effects. More than a few moments in the movie were just embarrassing to the point where it almost seemed like an unintentional parody of many great mobster/crime/mafia films. In particular much of the line delivery by Johnny Depp was awkward and undeniably lame. This is coming from someone who loves most Johnny Depp flicks and his work in them, and while I didn't hate Donnie Brasco, the casting of Depp was totally out of whack. He's completely miscast here, and unfortunately it shows here moreso than in other miscasting cases.
The last big punch against the film is the story itself. The actual plot isn't very well thought out and is presented in a pretty murky way. The film overstays it's welcome and is filled with scenes that could've and moreso should've been replaced with scenes that actually related to the main plot. For instance there was really no buildup to the final meeting with Pacino and Depp and it kind of just 'happens'. A big error there by the crew behind the film that they unfortunately repeated earlier in the movie, making the viewer really not care about the characters, the plot and constantly struggle to stay interested or feel any sort of emotional connection or tension. The second noticeable afterthought relates to the underwhelming climax and mediocre ending of Brasco, but probably in the worst way possible... as it's the beginning of the movie. There is literally no buildup or reasoning behind Pacino's character picking up Depp's character and welcoming him in under his wing. Nothing.
Fortunately the movie has a couple areas that save it from falling completely over the edge. One of them being a superb performance from Al Pacino in a unique and important character. He plays second fiddle, something he rarely does, both in terms of the movie itself (he's a bit more of a supporting actor) as well as in the chain of mobsters in the movie. He does a great job of getting the audience to care about his character and has a depth and wholeness to him that we rarely see in crime characters. He brings the emotions and they work, the only flaw I saw was not so much one with the performance as it was with the general population seeing Pacino in movies so much and being so familiar with most of his popular characters, it's just a little hard to get it through your head that Pacino's character is short on cash. It's not entirely impossible to believe, but the movie doesn't do much in the way of giving reasons as to why this is the case or why you should believe it.
One last positive mention would be given to the music and score, both of which are unique and effective. Unfortunately though the rest of Donnie Brasco is a misguided mess of a mobster movie, missing the mark on so many levels on a potentially great movie. It's one of the most disappointing crime/mob movies I've seen, but it's far from the worst. I can probably name 20 other movies in the genre to see before this one, but all in all Donnie Brasco is still worth a watch, though mediocre, especially for Pacino's performance.