I'm tempted to trash Martin Scorsese's latest movie, The Departed, just to be perverse. Scorses is one of those directors that professional critics love to love. At Metacritic, a website that compiles reviews and gives composite scores to movies, The Departed comes in at 85 (out of 100) points, the highest-rated movie currently playing. As usual, I think the professional critics are rating The Departed based on its director's previous works more than the intrinsic merits of the movie itself.
Granted, Scorsese has an impressive body of work. He has proven that he knows how to make good movies with Mean Streets, Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, The King of Comedy, The Color of Money, and The Aviator. But, as cruel as it sounds to say it, that was then. What have you done for us lately, Mr. Scorsese?
Warning: Plot Spoiler Ahead!
In the first place, there is nothing exciting or innovative about the story. The movie is a remake of a Chinese movie, Mou gaan dou (English title, Infernal Affairs). If you like lots of blood and gore with your cup of green tea, nobody brews that concoction like Hong Kong film makers. The story, basically, is about two young men in the Massachusetts State Police, Sullivan, played by Matt Damon, who comes from a long line of Irish cops, and Costigan, played by Leonardo DeCaprio, who comes from a family of outlaws and ne'r-do-wells. One of them is a mole infilitrating the mob; the other is a mole infiltrating the police. Guess which is which. Ho, hum, how many times have we read and seen that story?
DeCaprio, particularly, does a great job in his role. He proved to me in The Aviator that he is an actor, not just a pretty face, but, nevertheless, I was surprised at how good he was. I thought Damon, also, did an excellent job, but the rest of the all-star cast turn in forgettable performances. I was particularly irritated at seeing Jack Nicholson, once again playing the arched-eyebrow devil with the familiar sneer and mannerisms, when About Schmidt proved to me that he is capable of so much more. The cast also includes Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and other familiar names, none of whom gave particularly noteworthy performances.
Despite the temptation to trash the movie out of irritation, I am not going to do it. This is an average Hollywood movie, the one the suits come up with when they want to make sure the movie makes money and sells pop and popcorn. Take a time-worn formula, insert big name actors and directors and serve. A lot worse movies have been made and are out there in the multiplexes right now. I rated it three stars out of five, which is average.