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Donnie Brasco

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Donnie Brasco

Starring: Al Pacino, Johnny Depp
Director: Mike Newell
Rated: R
RunTime: 115 Minutes
Release Date: February 1997
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Garry Pastore, Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, James Russo, Anne Heche

Review by Walter Frith
3 stars out of 4

The cinematic talents of Al Pacino have reached new heights with 'Donnie Brasco'. Pacino has played a criminal many times in his career and from the high profile and diverse characterizations of Michael Corleone in both 'Godfather' movies to the lacerating and despicable thug he played in 'Scarface' (1983) to the hilarious over the top gangster under heavy make-up in 'Dick Tracy' (1990), this legendary actor has managed to find new dimensions every time he sets out to play the bad guy. In many ways, re-inventing yourself in a lot of films can be more difficult than anything else you attempt in screen acting and I suspect Pacino enjoys living up to the challenge.

In 'Donnie Brasco', which is based on a true story, Al Pacino plays a life long member of the Mafia whose career in crime is marked with what he claims are twenty six assassinations as a hit man and he praises himself on a level of greatness that others in the organization aren't willing to recognize since he has not managed to move up much all the years he's been involved in his seedy and unrewarding lifestyle. His character is really a pathetic example of a life wasted. His still lives in a second class ordinary apartment with his junkie son and a female companion.

Enter an undercover FBI agent played sternly and completely in control at all times by Johnny Depp. His assignment is to get inside the life of Pacino and the organization he associates with and break it up. It's a job he performed for almost three years from 1978 to 1981 and his work along with other agents led to over two hundred indictments and one hundred convictions.

Having gotten close to Pacino's character leads to problems for him as he develops conflicting loyalties since Pacino treats him like a son and promises to make him a 'made' guy. Depp's character encounters family problems with his wife and children who feel shunned by his devotion to work and commitment elsewhere.

Director Mike Newell has created a convincing and meaningful crime saga with unpretentious characters and scenes of sorted detail combined with a screenplay by Paul Attanasio ('Quiz Show') based on the novel 'Donnie Brasco' by Joseph D. Pistone and Richard Woodley. Pistone is the FBI agent Depp plays in the film and while Pacino makes the film, Depp still proves he's one of this generation's finest young actors.

Copyright 1997 Walter Frith

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