It was a really tiring week. Much more than usual. So when my friend Bob invited me to go with him to see The Departed, I was thrilled. For me, there is no better way to relax than in soft, reclining stadium seats while snacking on hot buttered popcorn, chasing it with the biggest soda one can buy on the black market and sitting along-side a good friend.
With the customary space-in-between, of course.
That The Departed is a Martin Scorsese flick was the cherry. I've never seen a bad Scorsese movie; I even liked that period-piece film he did in the early 90s with Daniel Day-Lewis and Michelle Pfeiffer.
For me, that's evidence I dig the guy and his work.
I'm not that hip to Jack Nicholson, whose Frank Costello is one of the leads in The Departed. I just don't get his schtick. I've liked him in some movies--The Shining comes to mind, and Five Easy Pieces--but frankly, every other film I've seen him in, he's just playing some degree of the same character (which, I suspect, I pretty much his own personality). Somewhere along the way, Jack's figured out that mussed-up hair, long rants laced with profanity, a sideways smirk and Runaway-Bride-Eyes gets him a big payday on the studio backlot.
But the rest of the cast! Matt Damon, and Leonardo DiCaprio. Mark Wahlberg. Martin Sheen. And Alec Baldwin in his best role since his too-brief stint in Glengarry Glen Ross. Plus, everyone gave this movie a great review. Two thumbs up from Ebert and the guy who replaced Siskel, an "A" rating from some of the Internet review sites. Hell, the trailer was more entertaining than some of the movies I've seen of late.
Pass me the popcorn, Bobby, I'm ready to be entertained.
The Departed has a terrific premise. Two young Massachusetts State Police Academy graduates (DiCaprio and Damon) begin their respective careers on opposite sides of the track. Damon's character Colin Sullivan is a former delinquent turned squeaky-clean cop who has serious ambition and childhood ties with organized crime. DiCaprio is a sensitive rich kid who doesn't want to be, and his character, Billy Costigan, goes deep undercover in order to infiltrate the Boston mob. Both characters are opposites in lifestyle, perspective and what they are willing to do to achieve their personal ambitions. Although they don't meet until near the end of the movie, they are tied together throughout by peripheral characters and circumstances.
But the movie fails. The story is told in a quick-scene pace that doesn't allow you to connect with the characters. I knew them, and understood their motivations, but I never really connected with them because of the way the film was edited. The dialogue originally sounded smart, then quickly became cliche. The main plot theme--that moles have been implanted in both the police department and the organized crime syndicate, and people try to figure out who is who--had holes in it that couldn't be ignored. And, Jack was Jack. Bug-eyed, hair-mussed, smirking-all-the-time, profanity-spewing Jack. People will probably be talking him up for an Oscar for this role...And when they do, I'll be shaking my head in disbelief.
I just don't get it.
Near the end, I began second-guessing myself, thinking maybe I was criticizing too harshly. After all, I was tired and grouchy from a tiring work week, and Bobby ate most of my popcorn. Maybe it was just me. Then, near the final scene the most dramatic event of the movie occurred--an unexpected, violent scene during the final five minutes that changed the whole movie--and the audience laughed. Hard. In unison.
And they weren't supposed to.
UPDATE: Never wanting to influence folks based on my opinion alone, here is a USA Today review that says The Departed is Scorsese's best since Goodfellas. It even credits the editing as keeping the viewer "off kilter," as a good thing. Decide for yourself.