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The Departed

About a month ago I saw The Departed. It was a fairly underwhelming experience.

In case you haven't heard of the film (a remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs), it follows two cops, one going undercover in a crime family led by Jack Nicholson, and the other going undercover in the Police department, because Jack Nicholson seems to think it'll protect him. Or some such thing. The whole undercover in the cops world bit isn't explored at all, really. Anyhow: the first cop is played by Leonardo DiCaprio, who does his angst thing, and the second is played by Matt Damon, who appears to be attempting to win the Worlds-Stupidist-Accent-Award. What happens in the film is fairly by the numbers, in that as the film goes on each character goes further into his world, with pills and booze and doubts for DiCaprio, and promotions and nice apartments and a sexy girl for Damon, thus giving the classic, I've-Lost-Everything-I-Want-Out cliche for the first and the I've-Got-So-Much-I-Can't-Lose-It cliche for the second. Both characters even begin a romantic liaison with a psychiatrist, played by Kirsten Dalton, though why exactly she decides to fuck DiCaprio's burnt out ex-cop recently done jail time and now seeing her because he must, is beyond me.

The biggest problem with the film, if you can't tell already, is that it is flat and lifeless. I remember when a Martin Scorsese film actually had life, and energy, but fuck me if the last ones feel as if they've been made by a robot. There's no touch of style, no touch of energy, and when, in the end, Scorsese ends the film with a rat crawling out in front of a church, which he has positioned to be representative of the whole city and its institutions, you want to head out of the cinema, find Scorsese, and beat the fuck out of him for being so uncreative.

I mean, really, a rat.

Now, it should be said that I'm not any kind of flag waving Scorsese fan, but I've liked my share of his films. Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Mean Streets, and Bringing Out the Dead pretty much sum up the ones I dig--and quite dig--and there's a few I don't care for one way another, and one that I actively dislike, which is Goodfellas. At least, that was until he made The Gangs of New York and began working with Leonardo DiCaprio. That first film of their relationship was so bad that I refused to see The Aviator and only changed my mind about Scorsese when I heard that Jack Nicholson and Ray Winstone had found their way into The Departed and that the film itself looked like it was going to slip into the kind of Scorsese film I enjoyed.

It didn't. It's by the numbers, as I said, and the one twist at the end of the film, is so unsupported throughout the entirety of the film that it's actually rather annoying. It is the equivalent of having a bumbling, idiot cop roaming around with Matt Damon, and who rocks up at the end when Damon's in trouble and shoots Leonardo DiCaprio in the head, and then says, "What, you think you're the only person Nicholson had in the cops?"

Actually, it's just like that.

Stupid, yes?

The rest of the film hits its predictable marks, often with no concern about if it is credible or not. For example, while the death of Martin Sheen forces the plot along so that DiCaprio, now so deep undercover that know one knows who he is, and that is all fine, is overshadowed by the silly reveal of Matt Damon who keeps his incriminating evidence on his desk at work in the Police Station. And then there is DiCaprio running off, of course, because who is going to believe him in a station full of cops? Or Marky Mark's return at the end, because he disappeared after Sheen's death for no real reason, except to leave DiCaprio out in the cold. And I'm not even getting into the laughable use of mobile phones, but a special moment should be spared for DiCaprio who, while in the middle of a tense arms deal with shady Asian Gangs, leans around a column where no one can see him and sends a text message to the cops. Moments before, Damon, in a room full of cops watching the two gangs meets, reaches into the pocket of his pants and sends a message to Nicholson to warn him he's being watched. The cops around him do nothing. Maybe they thought he was jerking off. Who knows?

I don't know what it is, but Scorsese is losing everything that he had going for him. He no longer gets interesting performances out of his actors--Nicholson seems bored and Ray Winstone is just wasted and the highlight of the film is a foul mouthed, scene chewing Marky Mark--and all the energy that he displayed before is just wasted. I suspect that until Scorsese wins and Oscar and gets this whole acknowledged by the establishment thing he seems to have going out of his system, he's films aren't going to be watchable for a long time.

Comments

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(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 03:05 am (UTC)
you know, he is planning to make another film with leonardo...
ataxi
Nov. 30th, 2006 03:14 am (UTC)
He LOVES Leonardo. God knows why. Kid hasn't aged well at all.
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 03:22 am (UTC)
yeah, i don't get it either. maybe they've got some bond going or something.
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 03:40 am (UTC)
one more film and then it'll be over!
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 04:00 am (UTC)
we should make scorsese is dead t-shirts.
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 09:57 am (UTC)
i've always wanted to make a series of dead t-shirts. if i had the money...
(Anonymous)
Nov. 30th, 2006 03:10 am (UTC)
Infernal Affairs is a Hong Kong film - not Japanese.

If you have a chance, try watching the original

A passerby
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 03:21 am (UTC)
whoops. fixed.

THE DEPARTED has kinda soured me on watching the original, tho a lot of people say it's really fine. a lot of people say this about THE DEPARTED as well.
(Anonymous)
Nov. 30th, 2006 12:29 pm (UTC)
A lot of people also say you're a cunt :-)

A passerby
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 12:33 pm (UTC)
i lot of people say i'm a genius, too. it's best just to ignore both.
angriest
Nov. 30th, 2006 03:38 am (UTC)
The thing that irritates me in relation to Scorsese is the way that the entire industry is sitting on the edge of their seat, desperately waiting for him to make just one more Oscar-calibre movie so that they can finally give him the Best Director award he deserved for all those movies 20 years ago. It puts this remarkable critical pressure on his work that doesn't help anyone just watch or assess them as films, rather than as pre-emptively assumed (and thus ultimately disappointing) master works.

I watched this happen with Gangs of New York and The Aviator, both of which I found reasonably enjoyable movies but which the film critics and commentators would have you believe were simultaneously masterpieces and travesties.

They're just films!
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 03:42 am (UTC)
you know, i don't know if i would ever think that the scorsese films were masterpieces. when they work for me, they're more character driven, little rough and tumble films filled with energy. these new ones feel like they're meant to be more--to be master pieces.
angriest
Nov. 30th, 2006 03:48 am (UTC)
Last year the indie cinema I managed screened Mean Streets, which I'd never seen, and I was absolutely blown away by the raw energy of it. I also rate Goodfellas much more highly than you do, I suspect.

Masterpiece is such a hard word to throw around.
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 03:56 am (UTC)
yeah, masterpiece is. probably best not to throw it.

with GOODFELLAS, i was just, i dunno. i just disliked it. i expected to, but i didn't. it happens, i guess. i kept comparing it to ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA--probably the deniro connection.
angriest
Nov. 30th, 2006 03:59 am (UTC)
I was incredibly amused when Disney released Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on DVD, and their "Walt Disney Classics" label suddenly read "Walt Disney's Masterpiece".

Which it probably is - it's certainly one of the most artistically intricate and impressive hand-drawn animated films ever, but it still amused me so.
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 04:02 am (UTC)
heh. i haven't seen that film since i was a kid.
ataxi
Nov. 30th, 2006 03:49 am (UTC)
I dare say The Age of Innocence (which I rather liked) wouldn't be up your alley either then.
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 03:58 am (UTC)
probably not, but i'd likely give it a go if it were round. i didn't mind THE LAST TEMPTATION OF CHRIST, as a complete aside. harvey keitel as judas was kinda funny, however.
ataxi
Nov. 30th, 2006 04:07 am (UTC)
The Last Temptation is a good bit of cinema IMO. The bits of Jesus-monologue that were lifted for that techno track The Prophet - you know, "I'm here! And I'm going to baptise everybody! With fire!" were quite brilliant. Also, Willem Defoe. I find him ever so hard to dislike even in a lame duck role.
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 04:14 am (UTC)
yeah, dafoe is cool. i've liked him ever since PLATOON. which is probably the only oliver stone film i like, mind.
angriest
Nov. 30th, 2006 05:42 am (UTC)
Well if we're shifting onto Oliver Stone, I have to say that I adore JFK - it is to me a truly exceptional piece of filmmaking.
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 08:14 am (UTC)
i haven't seen it. actually, i have a few holes in the stone films, so i'm probably not qualified to say what is his best and not. i would have liked U-TURN if the ending hadn't sucked so much.
angriest
Nov. 30th, 2006 08:31 am (UTC)
Once you separate yourself from the "is it true/is it a mad conspiracy theorist rant" debate, and simply watch JFK as a film, it's a phenomenally accomplished piece of biographical fiction. It's also home to one of the genuinely brilliant screen performances by Kevin Costner (the others being, IMO, Dances With Wolves, No Way Out and Open Range).
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 10:06 am (UTC)
eh. i've never really liked costner. he doesn't turn me off or anything like he does some people, but he's never done much for me.
paulhaines
Nov. 30th, 2006 04:55 am (UTC)
It does not surprise me you say this, mr peek, everyone seems to be loving this flick and heralding it as a return to form for the man.

Except you. Ha! Like what macca said on his blog.

I'm hanging out to see it though, but dunno when I can, because my daughter can't sit still for that long in a cinema resounding of gunfire. Damn it.

Now tell me you liked Borat, despite the hype!

benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 08:17 am (UTC)
heh. you know, i actually do wanna see borat. it looks funny--i'm not sure if it's fifteen bucks funny, tho, so i'm more interested in seeing children of men and the prestige. but i shall go see it and test myself for you, haines!
paulhaines
Nov. 30th, 2006 08:31 am (UTC)
I thought it was $15 funny. I think it might be the funniest movie I've seen (or at least I laughed a lot during it). It's my sort of humour.

I wanna see The Prestige and Children of Men too. And beat this: my 15 week old daughter will see The Prestige before me. Her and Jules are off to the cry-baby session at the local cinema.
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 10:01 am (UTC)
your kid has more of a life than me, dude.

anyhow, borat. i shall go see borat. i shall find someone to con.
tigersmeleth_86
Nov. 30th, 2006 06:14 am (UTC)
In Matt Damon's defense, the man is from Boston (and so am I for that matter), so his accent from my POV was fine. DiCaprio on the other hand....honestly...if you're gonna do a Boston accent, get someone from Boston as a coach, or don't do it at all!
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 08:20 am (UTC)
really? shit. that accent just bugged the shit out of me all through the film. dicaprio didn't even register as really having one, much like everyone else int he film. but damon was soout of synch with everyone else it shat me :)
(Deleted comment)
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 10:00 am (UTC)
seems that way, doesn't it?
shadowsandice
Nov. 30th, 2006 08:45 am (UTC)
I didn't know it was a remake until there was so much plot similarity happening that I knew it couldn't not be a remake.

And yes, the original is better. And mildly more evil, too.

That rat at the end was a bit like Jet Li at the end of THE ONE, screaming "I am Udon Law! I am nobody's bitch! You are all my bitches!" Comical.
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 09:59 am (UTC)
that's such a bad comparison. 'the end of THE DEPARTED reminded me of that shitty jet li film, THE ONE. you know, the one where he has multiple jet li's. yeah. that shit one.'

heh.
ninebelow
Nov. 30th, 2006 10:48 am (UTC)
The One is awesome!
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 11:22 am (UTC)
...and there, on the floor, everyone could see martin's credibility. it had died, again.

:)
shadowsandice
Dec. 1st, 2006 08:55 am (UTC)
No, it's perfect. Ignoring whether or not The One was a good/bad film, it was a film that worked hard to be something for a couple of hours, and in the last ten seconds went and totally undermined itself doing something ridiculous like that. Same as The Departed.

Incidently, the shrink sleeping with DiCaprio's character made perfect sense to me.
ninebelow
Nov. 30th, 2006 10:48 am (UTC)
I thought the actors all gave very good performances (though Winstone was wasted.) However, as you say, the film is flat and lifeless and surprisingly often Scorcese lapses into cliche. And yeah, the rat was like being hit in the face with a hammer.

I've not seen Infernal Affairs but my all accounts it is much better.
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 11:32 am (UTC)
yeah, i've heard it's a lot better too. i'm just afraid if i see it, all i'll see is the taint of this film.
(Anonymous)
Nov. 30th, 2006 11:31 am (UTC)
Departed
I don't think Scorcese's done a movie worth a shit since mean streets. The most overrated director ever. Fuck, though, give him the Oscar. Barbra Streisand's got an Oscar, so does Julia freaking Roberts. Give him ten Oscars if it'll stop him making shitty movies.

Lucius
benpeek
Nov. 30th, 2006 11:34 am (UTC)
Re: Departed
i like the theory that he dies when he gets an oscar. i bet i could make a bit selling scorsese is dead t-shirts, too...
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