Donnie Brasco (1997)

Donnie Brasco (1997)


Directed by Mike Newell

Al Pacino as Benjamin ‘Lefty’ Ruggiero
Johnny Depp as Donnie Brasco/Joseph D. ‘Joe’ Pistone
Michael Madsen as Sonny Black
Bruno Kirby as Nicky
James Russo as Paulie
Anne Heche as Maggie Pistone
Zeljko Ivanek as Tim Curley
Gerry Becker as Dean Blandford
Robert Miano as Sonny Red


Taking the true story of FBI agent Joe Pistone as its inspiration, the film Donnie Brasco tells the story of a touching friendship between Joe Pistone’s undercover alter ego Donnie Brasco and gangster Benjamin ‘Lefty’ Ruggiero. Joe Pistone goes undercover as Jewel Man Donnie Brasco to uncover the mob leader and the going ons to the FBI. He befriends Lefty who vouches for him when he enters the mobs world. As Donnie and Lefty become closer and Donnie moves further into the world of crime, Donnie is ridden with guilt as he knows that he is leading Lefty to a certain death.

Donnie Brasco may not offer anything really new, as the story of an undercover cop entering the mafia has been done countless times before, but it is a simple story wonderfully told.

The acting is generally excellent across the board. Johnny Depp plays Brasco well and really gets Pistone’s feelings of fear and confusion across to the audience. Al Pacino is even better as Lefty, bringing real emotion and some great comedy moments to the character. Sonny Black (Michael Madsen) and Nicky (Bruno Kirby) are also great characters that are well acted, although sadly not enough character development is given to these two. Anne Heche is perfectly cast as Pistone’s wife Maggie, and shows the characters upset and frustration of her changing husband superbly.

Donnie Brasco is one of the more disturbing mob films, reflecting the true brutality of gangsters. The violence towards the Japanese waiter in the restaurant is shocking, but is also probably the most defining scene, showing how the mafia really are as opposed to the alluring lifestyles other movies make them out to have. The film is full of tragic characters and isn’t nearly the glamorous lifestyle that is expected by the audience.

Visually the film is near flawless, and the way in which the film is shot helps add to the characters emotions. At the beginning of the film where Donnie first meets Lefty, parts of it are shot like the camera is taking photographs. While this is mildly distracting, it also helps to remind the audience of whom Donnie Brasco is really working for, and give the scene a CCTV security camera feel.

Patrick Doyle provides a fantastic score which fits the film and serves the story well.

Although the film didn’t blow me away on my first viewing and I found parts rather slow paced, it’s certainly a film that gets better on repeat viewings. Seeing it the second time you are able to notice the little things which seemed irrelevant on the first viewing, and see just how important they are to the full story.

— Written by Gypsy, an English Film Critic

To read the thoughts by Redfox click here: Redfox&Donnie Brasco



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