Since the whole gangster genre has already been ground into the dirt, director Mike ("Four Weddings and a Funeral") Newell, doing a bad Martin Scorsese impression, figures he might as well treat the whole thing like some bizarre form of celebrity roast. In order to convince audiences that Johnny Depp really isn't a little furniture-throwing, reporter-abusing wuss, who has to date anorexic women so he looks like a man when he stands next to them, Newell has surrounded him with so many recognizable actors that "Donnie Brasco" looks like a gangster film retrospective.
Most prominently is Al Pacino as Donnie Brasco's (Johnny Depp) mentor, Lefty Ruggiero. Basically, Lefty is to Michael Corleone what toilet paper is to President Clinton's flabby rear end. Lefty seems to know everything, but is continually passed over in the Mafia ladder-climbing contests. Following closely behind Pacino is Michael Madsen from "Reservoir Dogs," who must see images of two-headed blue midgets screaming "typecasting!" in his sleep. Rounding out things are Bruno ("Godfather, Part 2") Kirby and James ("Once Upon a Time in America") Russo.
As Donnie's respect, concern and loyalty for Lefty grow, along with his involvement with the Mafia, his relationship with his wife (Anne Heche) deteriorates. This is because Donnie's name is actually Joe and he's an agent for the FBI and he can't tell her what he's up to - a predicament that causes a tremendous amount of whining, everybody's favorite form of marital communication.
The FBI angle is supposed to give this film some kind of edge, but since its focus is squarely on the lowest of the low Mafia types like Lefty, that edge cuts like the wrong side of a thick butter knife. Fortunately, it may only take a few minutes for you to realize you've seen most of this film before. It was called "Goodfellas."
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