The Negotiator wrote in from a test screening of THE DEPARTED, Martin Scorsese’s remake (sigh) of 2002’s HK thriller INFERNAL AFFAIRS.
This redux features Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Anthony Anderson, and Alec Baldwin.
And this pedigree adds up to...? Mediocrity, according to The Negotiator.
Is it possible that even Scorsese can't beat the "We Shouldn't Be Remaking So Many Damn Movies, Especially When We're Not Making Them Very Well" curse that currently ails the industry, with no end in sight?
Here’s The Negotiator's report…
The Departed is a remake of the Chinese film “Infernal Affairs” which came out in Asia in 2002. I.A is about two men that are ordered to spy on each other’s organizations. One is a mole in the gang while the other is a mole in the police. The film starred Tony Leung (Hard Boiled, Hero) and Andy Lau (House of Flying Daggers). And typical of Hollywood the film got remade with a big name director, Mr. Martin Scorsese, and big name actors. But did all of this talent pay off?
Now this film has a major cast. Matt Damon plays the Andy Lau character, the mole in the police, while Leo Dicaprio plays the Leung character, the mole in the gang. Jack Nicholson plays the mob boss and Martin Sheen plays the Captain character. Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin are also in the movie with minor roles and were my most favorite characters. Anthony Anderson hot off the heels of his dramatic roles in “Hustle & Flow” and a guest appearance on “Law & Order: SVU’ is completely wasted in the film with a very minor role. Now Leo and Matt give good performances and the characters somewhat remain true to the core of the characters from I.A. Some new back-story is given to Leo’s character which gets him the job of being the mole which adds some depth to the character. One problem I had with the film is that Damon’s character was a complete tool throughout the film.
Sure there were a few moments when he was likeable but for the most part he was an ass. In I.A Lau was mostly likeable and by the end of the film he was a changed man, which isn’t the case in The Departed. Also Damon isn’t a big foil the Leo’s character. In I.A Lau was on the mark but in The Departed it was just ‘meh’.
Simply put this film does some things a bit better that I.A but overall it isn’t a better film.
The Departed does add some more depth to the characters, especially the mob boss played by Jack Nicholson, but it doesn’t necessarily make the story any better. One thing the film does do is that it stays true to the core story with a few minor changes. The psychologist character that was in I.A, now played by the lovely Vera Farmiga, is given a bigger role and is put in a love triangle with Matt Damon and Leo Dicaprio characters. Also the story takes place in Boston so they are some kind of annoying Boston accents throughout the movie.
One thing that the film does is make the mob boss character a complete psycho who in one scene participates in a three way in which one of the women is donning a strap on. Is this scene really necessary? I was really disappointed with Nicholson’s performance as it was a bit too over the top for me and it had a few too many comedic moments, including his death scene.
Now those who have seen I.A may be dying to know if The Departed stays true to the ending, and the answer is yes and no. Does Leo die at the end like Leung, yes. Does Matt Damon survive to possibly become a better man like Lau, no. After the funeral scene for Leo, Matt goes to his apartment where he sees Mark Wahlberg who then shoots him. Now Marky Mark obviously found out that Damon was the mole and wanted revenge for his treachery. I don’t have a problem with this added ending but as Damon’s dead body lies on the ground a massive rat proceeds to nibble at the groceries that he dropped when he was shot. This scene got a big laugh from the audience but I thought it underscored the moment with too much black comedy.
Another thing about the film is that it just felt a bit typical. It was really nothing new in terms of the story and everyone has seen mobster movies before and The Departed really adds nothing new to the genre. There were times when the film felt like an extended episode of the Sopranos except it was in Boston with pretty actors. Overall The Departed was a decent film but those who have seen Infernal Affairs will likely not hold to such a high regard as others do. If the film gets some editing, which it really needs in the first half hour, and ditches some of the black comedy moments, it could be a decent remake of a really good Chinese movie.