Aging street gangster / hit man Lefty (Al Pacino) takes a young hood jeweler Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp) under his wing just as he’s passed over for promotion within the Mafia. What he doesn’t know is that Brasco is secretly a long term undercover agent for the FBI sent to take the organization down. Based on Agent Joe Pistone’s autobiographical 1988 memoir “Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia.” and set as a character study, Donnie Brasco illustrates the long term effects of deep undercover on Brasco’s family, Lefty’s sad existance, and the paranoia that overtakes the boss, Sonny (Michael Madsen). Bruno Kirby is memorable as Nicky, a Mafia lieutenant who isn’t exactly a rocket scientist. Depp’s Brasco is the vehicle for making Lefty a sympathetic character, you can feel the love the two characters have for each other and even when Lefty becomes suspicious of Brasco he knows that if Brasco turns out to be a rat it’s himself that the mob will blame their downfall on and whack him for it.
The Production: 4/5
Unlike The Godfather or Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco gives the closest look at what being inside the modern (for ’97 at least) Mafia was like. Based on Pistone’s own experiences and wire recordings, the film captures the bravado and fading Italian influence New York street thugs. The most vile characters are somehow rendered sympathetic against the demands from mob bosses to produce on one hand and the FBI closing in on the other.
20 years later, the film holds up against others in the genre. Donnie Brasco probably has as many or more quotable lines as any other mob film as the colorful characters boast, steal and kill their way through the film. The iconic performances paired with the dual insights from fed and crook have made it a classic that deserves to be revisited and held in reverence with Scorsese’s best.
3D Rating: NA
This blu nicely captures the original look and feel of the original theatrical cut, without a lot of flash. There’s notable grain in night scenes and dark basements but it was undoubtedly there in the original capture. Zero ring halos or other artifacts, it’s definitely a good looking film. It’s solid without having any scenes that draw attention to themselves, with the exception of Lefty lounging in Adidas track pants =)
I was surprised to find a few interesting sound pans in this 5.1 mix, with the music pushing from the center screen to fill the room at appropriate times like in clubs and bars. For a mob film there’s limited gunplay and no big booms, so nothing to judge there.
Special Features: 0/5
Miss… Mister Blutarski. Zero Point Zero.
There’s nothing but nothing here. The only choice on the menu is to play the movie. WEIRD!
I don’t think I’ve rewatched Donnie Brasco since seeing it theatrically and this experience was likely better than the stereo and film based presentation I caught in a big box mall movieplex. At home it looks great on a 120″ screen and the 5.1 tracks got to breathe throughout my basement. It’s a bummer that there’s not a single extra, trailer, subtitle or ANYTHING to be found here, but the good news is you can get this right now on Amazon for $7.88. That’s a steal for this great of a movie.
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