The Departed

Bomb Rating: 

"The Departed" supports the principal behind my continuing boycott of cell phones. Frankly, I think they're criminal. People drive while talking on them. People who use them are perpetually rude and self-absorbed. In this film, they're also the principal element in causing all kinds of trouble.

From within the police department, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) calls mob boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) and warns him of impending trouble. Undercover cop Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) works with Costello and text messages his contacts back in the department. Here's the thing: nobody notices. Why don't they notice? Because they're all so damn used to the things that none of them can tell when somebody is using them inappropriately. Everybody who uses one is cool and important.

I guess because director Martin Scorsese hasn't had any recent luck, box-office or award-wise, with his own films, he's decided to go and steal something successful from Asia. "The Departed" is a remake of a Chinese film called "Infernal Affairs". This stolen movie has so many big-time movie stars and recognizable character actors that it's more like an actor's runway than a real film. Like models, each actor kind of struts along the stage for a given period of time until he makes way for another actor.

There's something depressingly empty about the story. Billy Costigan is so deep undercover so soon in his career that it's not long before he's acted like a criminal longer than he's acted like a cop. Despite Costigan's work, the cops are unable to bust Costello because of Sullivan.

Sullivan has been a cop longer than he's been a criminal and doesn't really know which way is up. He provides Costello with the essential information he needs to elude the cops every time. Not only do the cops not see Sullivan for what he really is, they do what any bureaucratic organization does with incompetents: they promote him.

Costigan actually makes a great point right in the middle of the movie that goes unanswered. The cops know Costello is a murderer. Why not prosecute him for murder instead of pursuing an elaborate case for selling microprocessors to the Chinese? No answer is given and the cops just go on their merry way, oblivious to the carnage.

The end holds true to the kind of spasmodic, unsatisfying violence for which so many Hong Kong films are known. Naturally, because Nicholson is Nicholson, Scorsese gives him his dramatic exit scene. The same can't be said for the other actors. Here, Scorsese acknowledges that it's Jack's movie even though the story says it isn't, which essentially makes Martin Scorsese Jack Nicholson's bitch.

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