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.
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.