The cinematic talents of Al Pacino have reached new heights with 'Donnie
Brasco'. Pacino has played a criminal many times in his career and from the
high profile and diverse characterizations of Michael Corleone in both
'Godfather' movies to the lacerating and despicable thug he played in
'Scarface' (1983) to the hilarious over the top gangster under heavy make-up
in 'Dick Tracy' (1990), this legendary actor has managed to find new
dimensions every time he sets out to play the bad guy. In many ways,
re-inventing yourself in a lot of films can be more difficult than anything
else you attempt in screen acting and I suspect Pacino enjoys living up to
In 'Donnie Brasco', which is based on a true story, Al Pacino plays a life
long member of the Mafia whose career in crime is marked with what he claims
are twenty six assassinations as a hit man and he praises himself on a level
of greatness that others in the organization aren't willing to recognize
since he has not managed to move up much all the years he's been involved in
his seedy and unrewarding lifestyle. His character is really a pathetic
example of a life wasted. His still lives in a second class ordinary
apartment with his junkie son and a female companion.
Enter an undercover FBI agent played sternly and completely in control at all
times by Johnny Depp. His assignment is to get inside the life of Pacino and
the organization he associates with and break it up. It's a job he performed
for almost three years from 1978 to 1981 and his work along with other agents
led to over two hundred indictments and one hundred convictions.
Having gotten close to Pacino's character leads to problems for him as he
develops conflicting loyalties since Pacino treats him like a son and
promises to make him a 'made' guy. Depp's character encounters family
problems with his wife and children who feel shunned by his devotion to work
and commitment elsewhere.
Director Mike Newell has created a convincing and meaningful crime saga with
unpretentious characters and scenes of sorted detail combined with a
screenplay by Paul Attanasio ('Quiz Show') based on the novel 'Donnie Brasco'
by Joseph D. Pistone and Richard Woodley. Pistone is the FBI agent Depp
plays in the film and while Pacino makes the film, Depp still proves he's one
of this generation's finest young actors.
Copyright © 1997 Walter Frith