Thursday, October 12, 2006

Snap judgement: The Departed

Yesterday it got to the point I had convinced myself instead of firing Joe Torre and trading A-Rod, a despondent George Steinbrenner had decided to go all-in and all-out and just plain attack America.

Those are some crazy thoughts to be thinking. Keep going down that road and the next thing you know you're a liberal arts professor at some podunk state university.

To clear my head I did something I rarely ever do: I walked over to the cineplex and took in a movie.

The Departed had garnered great reviews -- many were dubbing it Scorcese's best work since Goodfellas -- and it was last week's surprise box office winner. The movie earns most of its praise and the star studded cast shines while having a great time with their Boston accents.

It was shot as if it was two different movies. The first half was all quick jumps from subplot to subplot, like an Altman film. Only there was no uniform length to the scenes -- some would be as short as a few seconds. This was less annoying than it would seem and actually quite fluid. The technique brought me up to speed with the characters and never once did I feel lost.

The second half was a straight-forward crime thriller with lots of twists at the end.

Although the biggest surprise of all was how funny this movie was. Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio do the heavy dramatic lifting, but Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg -- playing deliberately over-the-top law enforcement types -- steal every scene they are in. Wahlberg is especially hilarious. As it did with Baldwin, I think Hollywood is discovering even though the former (and always) Marky Mark can be a passable leading man, he's masterful in supporting roles.

The Departed's biggest name is Jack Nicholson. He based his character on the notorious Winter Hill Gang boss
Whitey Bulger and plays the mobster in typical high-octane Jack style. Yes it's fun to watch -- Nicholson couldn't be boring if he tried, but this film is so busy and full of other good stuff at times Nicholson's antics and the way the action slows to capture them can be distracting.

I'd watch any Scorcese movie just for the music. While music doesn't play as big a role in The Departed as in some of his other work, there are a couple of well-placed Rolling Stones songs, a Van Morrison cover of Pink Floyd's Comfortably Numb I need to find and download, and some punk rock bag pipe stuff I'm also going to look into.

My biggest criticism of the film was the audience -- myself included -- laughed twice at the end during parts that weren't meant to be funny. On
IMDB there is a whole thread about this phenomena. Apparently it's happening everywhere.

That's the risk you run when you make an oft-funny movie that concludes with a bunch of serious, but ridiculously rapid fire, twists. Despite the bad taste this left in my mouth, I'd recommend The Departed -- which should be heard from many times on February 25th -- to anyone. Not just those who need a head clearing distraction.

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