Plot: What’s it about?
Joseph Pistone (Johnny Depp) has a wife and children, but he spends little to no time with them. In fact, he usually sleeps away from home and is known for hanging around with criminals, even getting involved with their actions at times. But if you ask him, he’ll say it wasn’t him you saw in these times, it was Donnie Brasco. Joseph is a police officer and a loving father & husband, while Donnie is a crooked jeweler who is best friends with a veteran hitman, Lefty (Al Pacino). You see, Joseph works undercover and when he is in with the mobsters, he is known as Donnie Brasco. Donnie has been on track in his mission, made it inside the ranks and he gathers hours of wire taps. He sees all that happens within this realm of crime and as fate has it, he has become best friends with Lefty, who is on his last leg, both mentally and with his peers. Lefty takes Donnie in under his wing and the only reason Donnie has gotten so deep, is because Lefty was there to vouch for him. But as Donnie spends more & more time in this mission, he begins to think he belongs more inside this world than his own. He refuses to be taken off the case, gets even closer with some of the guys, and even finds himself more at home with his new family. But when this mission is over, will Joseph Pistone even exist anymore, or will there just Donnie Brasco?
This is one of those movies where everything seems to go just right and while this isn’t popular as it should be, Donnie Brasco is a personal favorite of mine. The film is based on a true story and the screenplay is fantastic, which means all you need is a gifted director and a good cast. The man at the helm is Mike Newell, who delivers a superb film in all respects, proving himself as a talented filmmaker. As far as the cast goes, this is one star studded lineup loaded with terrific turns. Such names as Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen, Anne Heche, Bruno Kirby, Al Pacino, and more all grace this movie. So the elements are all present to make this one work and thankfully, it all works together to create one powerful motion picture. This is a true story though and as such, things don’t always go in favor of the good guys and things happen that might not reflect an upbeat tone. So this isn’t the movie to watch if you need a pick me up, but the realism and history of this story add to the tension & impact of what we see. This disc represents Columbia/Tristar’s effort to atone for their original bare bones disc and in the end, this one was well worth the wait. This movie is worth a look for all movie fans and with a disc like this, a rental or purchase is more than justified.
This isn’t his best known role or his flashiest performance, but as Lefty Ruggiero, Al Pacino is excellent. I like how this role is so much different than his other treks into the mobster realm, as Lefty is so normal and almost crude. The nice suits & slick hair from The Godfather are long forgotten here, but Pacino is just as convincing in this film. That is a testament to his skills, but then again, I never doubted him for a second in this movie, or any other. His experience within the genre helps out a lot, but Pacino doesn’t recycle his performance by means, as Lefty is a very unique character. I don’t think this is his finest hour, but Pacino fans will not want to miss his work in Donnie Brasco. Other films with Pacino include Scent of a Woman, The Insider, Any Given Sunday, Scarface, and Heat. The cast here also includes Johnny Depp (Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands), Michael Madsen (Species, Reservoir Dogs), Anne Heche (Volcano, Wag The Dog), James Russo (The Ninth Gate, The Postman), and Bruno Kirby (The Basketball Diaries, City Slickers). The director of Donnie Brasco is Mike Newell, who also helmed such movies as Four Weddings & A Funeral, Pushing Tin, and An Awfully Big Adventure).
Video: How does it look?
Donnie Brasco is presented in a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This is a superb visual presentation and if weren’t for some small moire patterns, this one would garner a perfect score. But with the kind of shirts Lefty wears, I think moire patterns were unavoidable at times. The color scheme is natural, but I still saw some bright areas when needed and flesh tones seemed normal and warm also. This is a very dark film in places, but this transfer never falters and delivers stark and well defined black levels. I saw no detail loss in the least, while the shadows were never too light either, a perfect blend if you ask me. A few moire patters emerge, but no other compression flaws to be discussed with this one.
Audio: How does it sound?
I don’t think movie is one that emphasizes audio power by any means, but the included Dolby Digital 5.0 track handles it well enough. The surrounds are used at times to enhance atmosphere or when the tension mounts, but usually the dialogue dominates the mix. When they do kick in, the audio sounds full and effective, but this just isn’t the type of material to push your audio system. The musical score is excellent in this film and sounds terrific here, using the surrounds to envelope the listener and enhance the tone of this movie. The main focus is the dialogue though, which comes across in crisp & sharp form here, no problems in the least. This disc also contains 2.0 surround tracks in English, Spanish, and French, as well as subtitles in those three languages.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The original disc was bare bones, but this one is the total opposite, a loaded special edition. The usual cast bios, theatrical trailer, and insert booklet are present, but there is also much more to be found on this disc. You’ll find two alternate audio options, an audio commentary track & an isolated musical score, both solid additions in my book. The isolated music track is self explanatory, so I will focus on director Mike Newell’s audio commentary for this film. He is very at ease within the track, joking about certain parts and such, but he is also more than willing to share tidbits of information on the movie. This proved to be a very informative track, one all fans of the films should give a listen to. Also included is a brief promotional featurette, along with a featurette titled “Donnie Brasco: Out >From The Shadows,” which includes interviews with Newell and even the real life Joseph Pistone. A very well done piece all around, I wish both featurettes were of this level. Rounding out this disc are some deleted scenes, which can be viewed with or without Newell’s comments. Columbia, thanks for finally giving this film the type of disc it deserves!