Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

YOU DIRTY RAT; Martin Scorsese's 'The Departed' Is Violent and Darkly Hilarious

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

YOU DIRTY RAT; Martin Scorsese's 'The Departed' Is Violent and Darkly Hilarious

Article excerpt


So Jack Nicholson strolls up to a restaurant bar in The Departed with blood splattering his shirt, blood up to his elbows, then proceeds to have a conversation as if nothing were amiss. And only when he's done does he turn to a henchman and say, in the most offhand manner: "Jimmy, bring the mop."

Nicholson's played the devil before, and while he claims no particular provenance over the underworld here, you can still smell the sulfur that lingers around his Francis Costello, the seedy king of Boston's Irish mob. A goateed satyr, he's decrepit, menacing, foul of mouth and reeking of corruption - Nicholson gets this flamboyant role so right, in so many ways.

And just wait until you see his imitation of a rat; it's worth the ticket right there.

He's the comic centerpiece of Martin Scorsese's The Departed, which manages to be darkly hilarious - it really is funny - as well as tense, complicated and bloody, bloody, bloody.

Scorsese has a dream cast and a crack crew: His regular editor, Thelma Schoonmaker, keeps the crime yarn hopping - it moves, and you'd better hang on - through the shortest 2 1/2 hours you'll spend this year. And William Monahan's script is rich in earthy insults, florid profanity and decidedly incorrect speech; his dialogue has real sting, a real snap to it.

The Departed is based, pretty faithfully, on a fine Hong Kong thriller, Infernal Affairs (a great name, that is), whose twisty plot provides a great framework for Scorsese to work his magic.

It's good to see him delighting in this genre stuff, with menacing thugs and burly cops, with stakeouts and showdowns and shoot-outs.

He gives it all a twist, though; the exaggerated conventions of the silly action movies are not for him. Here, the violence is sudden and nasty. There's a beautifully staged chase on foot - at walking speed. And he can find incredible menace in the simple sound of a cell phone buzzing.

The plot has something about stolen microprocessors and a foreign government that wants to buy them, but that's just the McGuffin; it doesn't really matter. The Departed is really a cat and mouse game - or better yet, a cat and rat game - about two men whose lives are nothing but deception. And though neither of them knows who the other is, they'd dearly like to find out.

Matt Damon is Colin Sullivan, an ambitious, clean-cut kid recruited by Costello to infiltrate the State Troopers. The plan's been in the works since he was a preteen, and now he graduates from the academy, gets his badge, and worms his way deep into the cops' bureaucracy.

Leonardo DiCaprio, meanwhile, is Billy Costigan Jr., a young state trooper who's recruited to go way, way undercover to work his way into Costello's gang. Soon he's running drugs, beating up Costello's enemies, getting deeper into the life of thuggery. …

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