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Review

‘Departed’ keeps audience captivated

October 12, 2006

I’ll be the first person to admit I don’t like action films. I especially don’t like crime movies. On top of that, I really, really hate American remakes of Asian action cop movies. But I will tell you one thing — I love Leonardo DiCaprio, so I went into this with an open mind.

When I walked out of “The Departed,” I was totally blown away and couldn’t stop saying the F-word every 30 seconds. Martin Scorsese has really gone over the top, and it’s great to see him return to the mob-based themes that made him such a great director to begin with.

While most movies tend to focus on the old clichés of the Italian mafia, Scorsese chooses to delve into the world of the Irish mob based in Boston. Here, family rules — even if the only thing that makes you family is helping to kick someone’s face in. So to combat the increasing violence and power the Irish gang has over the city, the head honchos at the Boston State Police Department put Billy (DiCaprio), a kid with a questionable family history, undercover to take down Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson).

But there is the Rub!

Costello shoots right back by embedding his own mole, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), into the Special Investigation Unit that is supposed to catch him.

I could call the rest of the movie a cat and mouse chase, but it is really more like a cat and cat chase because neither undercover is inferior to the other. They are two smart badasses who really are the best at doing their good guy/bad guy job.

I never could tell what side was going to win for two reasons. One, a lot of the characters die. And two, it probably had the most unpredictable plot I’ve seen since I started writing this column last spring.

The actors did an amazing job working together, and the chemistry really shines through. I’m not quite sure if this is because of the personal relationships and six degrees they share between them, or if they are all growing as serious actors. Damon and Mark Wahlberg, who plays a head in the police department, are both Boston natives. Wahlberg and DiCaprio played best friends in the film “Basketball Diaries,” which came out in the early 90s. DiCaprio has also been in a few Scorsese films before.

The supporting actors in this film are by no means belittled by the main characters. Alec Baldwin and Martin Sheen, who play good cops, really give this film foundation. The unwavering tension in this film is broken up well by Baldwin’s character. I wouldn’t say he’s the comic relief, but he was so sharp and witty you couldn’t help but break out laughing when he talked about doing Wahlberg’s mother. I really wish I would’ve had a pen to write some of those burns down. 

“The Departed” really excited me, and I am so much more interested in seeing more from this genre and from Scorsese. DiCaprio, Wahlberg and Damon aren’t just young, sexy actors anymore — they are bona fide leading men. But still, thank God they won’t be looking like Sheen, Baldwin and Nicholson for a very long time.