Depp's in to Deep
Whilst different in story and style "Donnie Brasco" works quite well as a companion piece to "Goodfellas" with both being based on true stories and both revolving around the mafia except from different view points. Because stylistically they seem poles apart you don't necessary see it but the story of Joseph D. Pistone who infiltrated the mafia and became so deep that his connections became personal has that same behind the scenes look at how the mafia worked and the various connections as well as meanings of certain phrases. And unfortunately it is stylistic issues which unfortunately makes "Donnie Brasco" that little bit weaker because it lacks the slickness and show of Scorsese's "Goodfellas" instead delivering coldness when it comes to the drama.
After spending 2 years undercover FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone (Johnny Depp - Edward Scissorhands) masquerading as Donnie Brasco finally finds himself taken into the mafia when he comes to the attention of Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino - Carlito's Way). Taking him under his wing and teaching him the way of being in the mafia they soon become close almost like a father and son. But as Joseph finds himself getting deeper and deeper into the organization it conflicts with his personal life as his marriage suffers and he begins to find it harder to disassociate himself because of the friendship which has formed with Lefty.
For a movie which is over 2 hours "Donnie Brasco" has one of the simplest storylines going, it is how being undercover within the mafia affected Joseph, his marriage and his judgement when it came to those he had grown close to within the crime organization. So what we get is whilst we learn about the organization as Joseph does, as in what words and phrases really mean, what we watch is how he becomes close to Lefty and Lefty to him. This leads to his own morals being pushed as the deeper involved he becomes the more things he has to do which leads to some powerful, violent and stomach churning scenes as well as then tested when he knows that if he ever came out then Lefty would be killed for being the one who introduced him.
The thing is that all this is fascinating, the way Joseph's marriage becomes troubled, how he went about feeding back information and how his cover was nearly blown is all fascinating. But then the styling of it is very cold, scenes in the city are bleak and whilst we get sun lit scenes in Miami it still feels strangely cold. I suppose it comes down to director Mike Newell delivering a movie which as I said works well as a companion piece to "Goodfellas" but are poles apart stylistically and I would have loved to see "Donnie Brasco" done with the same style and energy as Scorsese's popular mafia movie.
Never the less "Donnie Brasco" is still entertaining and it is little surprise that with a cast which includes Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby and Anne Heche there is a lot of intensity. It's all brilliant acting and Depp does a brilliant job of delivering Joseph's change as he becomes too involved and close to Lefty whilst Pacino delivers the weight of the world on his shoulders as Lefty getting across the almost negativity of a man passed over who just wants his bit of business. They all work so well together and you get that sense of connection between Joseph and Lefty to make it all very believable.
What this all boils down to is that "Donnie Brasco" is a mafia movie with a difference as it focuses on the intriguing true story of an FBI agent who whilst undercover gets himself too connected. My only negative is that whilst entertaining and interesting stylistically it left me cold.