THROWBACK THURSDAY: THE DEPARTED
WITH NICK CLEMENT
Time flies, doesn’t it? And just think: it’s almost a decade since THE DEPARTED hit cinemas. It’s a great movie and manages to be both a pulpy thriller and a satisfying meditation on evil and family and police political procedures. There were a great many movie snobs at the time who said its success was unwarranted and that Scorsese did not deserve his Oscars. To them I say..well..it’s a matter of opinion but..you are WRONG!
I do ‘get’ that many revere GOODFELLAS more and feel it was that rather than THE DEPARTED which should have won Scorsese his awards and plaudits and commercial spoils. But consider that the Oscar race and Box Office receipts are connected, and sometimes via the morality of a piece. GOODFELLAS might have more inventive cinematic tricks on display at a visual level, whilst being removed of any sugar coated gloss. It’s also a nasty little film though and one feels drained having watched it. There is a murky characterization at work there.
Can you REALLY want Ray Liotta’s character to triumph? No. Of course not. His associates in the movie don’t come off much better and yet one cannot run to some character on the opposite side of the law to let things play out. GOODFELLAS is not a movie about the mob being ‘taken down’ by some crusader cop. Equally it lacks a true sympathy for the Mob. These are the Blue Collar, anarchic lot. This is not the ruthless yet semi-civilised ambition of Michael Corleone in Coppola’s GODFATHER trilogy. So I would argue that one leaves GOODFELLAS feeling somewhat empty and drained, without a pay off. Which is why I prefer THE DEPARTED.
Unique selling points? Well: you get MATT DAMON vs LEONARDO DICAPRIO (Leooooooooo!). They are born to face off against one another as their stars came to prominence at similar times; they both managed to shed yet retain the shackles of an initially boyish appeal to adoring fanbases and in some scenes they look alike to the extent that in a split second you’d struggle to tell them apart.
JACK NICHOLSON was criticised for going over the top here. Why? I say LET JACK RIP! GO FOR IT! Scorsese thought the same, clearly. Yes, we’ve seen it all before but never quite THIS extreme. It was also a nice return to pure evil onscreen from Nicholson, who had got stuck in a rut of substandard comedy and self parody. It’s arguably Jack’s ‘greatest hits’ package: a kind of retirement present to the fans (even though he is not yet retired).
Alec Baldwin is hilarious in the film and Mark Wahlberg and Vera Farmiga provide solid support. It’s a thriller with stakes and urgency and some genuinely frightening violence. But it’s also a well made, insightful and fun detective story. I recommend it. Don’t believe me?
Well: here’s a second opinion with NICK CLEMENT…
Martin Scorsese’s The Departed is knock-out entertainment. Yes, he’s made better movies. But this one is just terrific on so many levels. William Monahan’s flamboyantly vulgar screenplay popped in every scene, and the performances from the deep cast were all wild and crazy and unhinged and robust.
Maybe too robust in the Jack Nicholson department, but hey, if he wants to bring a bag of sex-toys to the set why not let him? I accept the violence in this movie in context as that is the cynical nature of the narrative. There is a real dramatic craft to the final beats with Wahlberg and Damon. Note also: use of imagery and foreshadowing, via that rat repeatedly scurrying over the window sill.
But what really keeps bringing me back to this movie whenever I pass it by on the HD movie channels is the salty, profane dialogue that feels like masculine poetry when put into context with the cop genre. A sly and smart updating of 2002’s Infernal Affairs, The Departed allowed Scorsese to just sit back and have a ball with a bloody, nasty genre piece, made without epic pretense, instead focusing on the intimate nature of a criminal organization and undercover cops, while also allowing for smart character moments to shine through.
Vera Farmiga was super sharp and oh-so-sexy in this film. I love her pointed scenes with an impotent Damon — hilarious! Craft contributions from Howard Shore, Michael Ballhaus, and Thelma Schoonmacher were all ace. And it’s a darkly FUNNY film!
See Wahlberg doing a zipper-mouth-fart on Sheen’s desk in response to Leo’s reference of Hawthorne and Baldwin’s ‘I love the Patriot Act’ and ‘wedding ring’ speeches. Those are hilarious without ever harming the wider darkness and thrills of the film’s tone. You also get a cameo of sorts from a young James Badge Dale outta nowhere at the end and even back then, you could see the kid was going places: in fact it’s arguably a better showcase for his talents than his slightly larger role in IRON MAN 3 nearly a decade later.
After spending close to a decade working in Hollywood, Nick Clement has taken his passion for film and transitioned into a blogger and amateur reviewer, tackling old, new, and far flung titles without a care for his cerebral cortex. His latest venture: Podcasting Them Softly, finds him tackling new ground as an entertainment guru, and along with his spirited partner Frank Mengarelli, are attracting some diverse and exciting talent to their site. Some of Nick‘s favorite filmmakers include Michael Mann, Martin Scorsese, Tony Scott, Oliver Stone, David Fincher, Werner Herzog, Terrence Malick, and Billy Wilder, and he’s a huge proponent of the “31 Flavors of Cinema” school of thought. Favorite films include The Tree of Life, Goodfellas, Heat, Back to the Future, Fitzcarraldo, Zoolander, Babe, and Enter the Void.