Director: Mike Newell
Cast: Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen, Anne Heche
Other: Based on a true life story by Joe Pistone; Screenplay: Paul Attanasio
Year and Running Time: US 1997, 127 minutes
Year Screened: 2010
A first rate mafia drama which 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 ageing mafia man taking into 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 outstanding... It begins and ends with a closeup of his eyes) and mafia man "Lefty" (Pacino, who gives us one of his finest characterisations - note his close-up after Donnie is asked to shake hands by a certain character on a 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 Donnie of trying to kill him with the draught when he opens a window. The portrait of Lefty is the opposite of how we imagine a mafia veteran, as a vulnerable, often emotional man.