Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The Departed--A Different Viewpoint

Rather than respond to Mr. Trend's review of the The Departed in comments, I thought it would be easier to just write a quick post. Unlike virtually everyone, I have major problems with this movie. Now first, I should say that it is a solid film. While I don't think it is significantly better than Scorsese's other recent work, it was certainly worth seeing. Most of the acting was quite solid (especially Vera Farmiga and Mark Wahlberg). The story, while flawed, did keep the interest. But I think people are overlooking quite a few problems.

1. Nicholson was not good. Did Nicholson even consider taking this role seriously? How over the top could he be? It was Jack acting like Jack, not Jack acting like a mob boss. The Nicholson of Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail, or The Passenger could have done this. This is Nicholson as caricature. The scene where he is throwing cocaine around like flour was particularly bad.

2. The movie falls apart after Nicholson dies. I thought it was a very good (though not great) film until this point. The aftermath of Jack's death is over the top and makes little sense. The violence is shocking I suppose and I don't have any particular problem with that. I don't mind all the major characters dying. But where was Mark Wahlberg's character through all this? He just appears again at the end. I don't buy it. He's all over that from the moment Sheen is killed. While massive death is A way to end a film, it's certainly not the ONLY way to end a film, nor it is necessarily the best.

3. Speaking of Sheen--so when this major high-ranking police figure is thrown off a building, nothing comes of it? The media is not all over it? The police aren't coming down on Nicholson immediately on whatever they can charge him with, a la Capone. Don't buy it.

4. What the fuck happened to the microprocessors? The whole reason they are going after Jack is to find the microprocessors. Once he sells the phony processors to the Chinese, they are just dropped from the story? What was that, a red herring? Really, that's just unacceptable to me in a Scorsese film.

5. The imagery at the end is terrible. Oh, how ironic--Matt Damon is killed carrying a bagful of groceries containing the same items that were in the bag when Nicholson began mentoring him. And to actually have a rat run across the bannister--don't they teach you in your first film class not to be so obvious with your metaphors? That was just ridiculuous.

Finally, and this isn't a criticism per se, I don't buy the line of argument that I've heard from a lot of people that it's good to see Scorsese doing crime films again. Why? Why should he restrain himself to those stories? He tells them well, yes. I certainly hope he does more. But in itself, it's meaningless. Look at The Age of Innocence or The Last Temptation of Christ. These are interesting, well-done films that have nothing to do with urban gang warfare. To me, the last bad movie he did was the last time he went into the modern city--Bringing Out the Dead. I don't see what difference it makes at all.