Based on the true story of an undercover FBI agent’s infiltration into New York Mafia life, Mike Newell’s drama is as accurate a portrayal of the grubbiness of low-level organised crime. There are no Brando-esque Dons mumbling about family honour, this is a seedy insight into the decidedly unglamourous lives of thieves, drug dealers and murderers.
Johnny Depp plays the FBI plant, Joe Pistone aka Donnie Brasco, who is taken under the wing of ageing foot soldier Lefty Ruggiero (played by Al Pacino), and introduced into a mafia faction led by Sonny Black (Michael Madsen). Black’s crew is a brutal, feudal and paranoid outfit that is ruthlessly ambitious in its pursuit of power and influence with the Mob hierarchy.
The Depp / Pacino double act is the hub of the film; Depp the outsider being sucked further into the mire of the underworld, and Pacino as the weary insider who we suspect knows his protege is a mole. Both are dislikable characters but in the context of the film they are its glue. The summary beatings and executions maintain an omnipresent threat of death that hangs over the pair to the last.
Excellent performances from both leads and refreshing to see Depp could act before he started apeing Keith Richards for Jack Sparrow in the Pirates franchise.
Donnie Brasco Thursday at 9.00pm MM Movie Mix