Donnie Brasco – Al Pacino week

This week is Al Pacino week. Netflix has Donnie Brasco currently available for instant play.

Donnie Brasco

WATCH: Donnie Brasco (1997) – Netflix version shows as unrated. The theatrical version was rated R for strong graphic violence, pervasive strong language, and for brief nudity and sexuality.

“When FBI agent Joe Pistone (Johnny Depp) goes undercover and becomes “Donnie Brasco” to infiltrate the Mob, he dangerously starts to identify more and more strongly with the made men he’s charged with taking down. Mike Newell directs this fact-based drama that explores the relationship between the hunter and the hunted — the mobster (Al Pacino) who grooms Brasco as his protégé. Anne Heche and Bruno Kirby co-star.”

“You get sent for, you go in alive, you come out dead and it’s your best friend that does it.”

Donnie Brasco is based on based on real life undercover operative Joe Pistone’s book “Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia”. The movie provides an intriguing look at mid-level mafia operations. While the operations seem very mid-level, Florida boss Santo Trafficante Jr. is mentioned several times and they show the Carmine Galante execution in a newspaper.

In an early role, Johnny Depp is marvelous as Donnie Brasco. He wisely underplays things when he is opposite Al Pacino as his mentor in crime ‘Lefty’ Ruggiero. Al Pacino turns in a really nice performance as a mafioso passed over for promotion – he is great at mixing menace, disappointment and loneliness.

The rest of the cast is good as well. Michael Madsen was made for mobster roles – here he plays the boss of the crew, Sonny Black. James Russo and Bruno Kirby put in expected performances as mobsters. Anne (I’m straight! I’m gay! Just kidding I’m straight!) Heche does a very nice job playing Depp’s long-suffering wife.

Direction is good without being flashy. The details are wonderful but, being a true story, the narrative is bit limited in scope. This is a very enjoyable slice of undercover mafia.

People Watch: Paul Giamatti and Tim Blake Nelson have small roles as FBI technicians.