Donnie Brasco (1997)

Directed by Mike Newell
Written by Paul Attanasio, based on the book by Joseph D. Pistone and Richard Woodley
Starring Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, Anne Heche

My Advice: Don't Miss It.

Al Pacino stars as Willie "Lefty" Loman in Martin Scorsese's Death of a Salesman.  Just kidding, but see if you don't find a resemblance in the two characters.  Johnny Depp plays the title character, which is merely an alias, for he's an undercover FBI agent working at infiltrating organized crime.  To these ends, he allies himself with "Lefty" (Pacino), a down-on-his-luck can't-get-a-fair-shake guy with the mob.  It just gets more complicated from there.

First of all, a big handshake to Attanasio, for taking the mob story and giving us something new to deal with.  And then a big pat on the back to Newell for drawing out of his castfull of great actors some unbelievably well-done performances.  Not that he had to yank, I mean look at who he got to work with...We get Pacino's character giving us the inside knowledge on the various slang and the immortal phrase "Fuggedaboutit" while complaining about his busted hump.  We have Johnny Depp (who impresses me more each time I see him) in full force as two sides of the same man struggling to remain the good guy.  He at one point tells his long-suffering wife (portrayed well by fave Heche) that it's no longer a matter of us or them, it's "I am them."  Supporting mafiosos such as Madsen, Kirby, and James Russo are solid in providing the deadly crowd that Depp's character runs with.

A tight, character-driven drama--a rarity in today's Hollywood, it's not to be missed.

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