Sunday, October 08, 2006

Boston Illegal

The Departed (2006), Martin Scorsese's remake of celebrated Hong Kong flick Infernal Affairs, sees the veteran director move away from oscar-baiting material like The Aviator and Kundun towards a no-holds barred all-star blockbuster thriller, but instead of the anticipated sell-out he's emerged with the best post-Goodfellas movie of his career.

Not having seen the original, Dead Kenny will refrain from making comparisons, but taken on its own terms The Departed hits the spot from its' opening scenes, which set up the plot which sees Matt Damon groomed by South Boston gangster Jack Nicholson to infiltrate the cops, while Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg plant rookie Leonardo diCaprio amongst Nicholson's gang of thieves. That's as much of the plot as you're getting from this review, and if you haven't seen the original Hong Kong version your correspondent's recommendation would be to get thee to a multiplex before some loudmouthed dickwit gabs the twists that corkscrew the plot in the coda.

The Departed (2006) doesn't tell us anything about the human condition we don't already know, but it does signpost a future for Hollywood thrillers away from the flippant post-modernism of Tarantino and his ilk. It provides a rattling tale, spiced with brilliant banter and an eye for location detail, directed with discreet vim by Scorcese utilising his customarily judicious use of music and allowing the talented cast to do the things they do best within the taut framework of the plot.

The violence is bloody and at times genuinely shocking, and the casual racism of its' characters isn't shied away from, but these elements are entirely justifiable within the context of the film. The movie's only really damaging weakness is the paucity of crucial female roles (a common factor in the Scorsese canon) with the police psychologist (Vera Farmiga, new to us) getting under the covers with the two double agents a sadly underwritten character, and Sallie Toussaint allowed no opportunity to be anything more than jaw-droppingly stunning eye candy. Ultimately, however, that's no reason to avoid a film that for once is genuinely must-see and arguably the best thriller to come out of Hollywood thus far this century.


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