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Miles Villalon

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“The Departed” brings viewers back to familiar territory: the mean and brutal streets where loyalties are blurred, and a kill or be killed mentality is key. “When I was your age, they would say you could become cops or criminals. What I’m saying is this: When you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?” mob boss, Costello (Jack Nicholson) says at the beginning of the film setting the tone and marking the return to the crime genre that made Martin Scorsese a house hold name.

With ferocious intensity “The Departed” takes you on an unflinching ride through the underbelly of Boston. The film, a remake of the 2003 Hong Kong film “Infernal Affairs,” follows two young men on opposite sides of the law. Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is an Irish gangster who infiltrates the police department, rising up to the ranks of Sergeant so that he can keep his boss, Frank Costello (Nicholson) from being pinned by the cops. Meanwhile Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), a Boston State Trooper is given the dangerous assignment of infiltrating Costello’s crew. It becomes apparent from both sides that a rat has reached each inner circle and tension boils over as cop and criminal race to unveil each other.

Scorsese is in top form, crafting a film that stays true to the original but also stands on its own. Though the story is the same in both, Scorsese took some liberties with his version. The main characters in the original (played by Tony Leung and Andy Lau) were older and undercover longer, which made it easier to relate to their plight. In the updated version, DiCaprio was able to capture the multifaceted range of emotions just as Leung (the cop) in the original, however Damon’s character, Sullivan, seemed to be one dimensional with a lack of consciousness that made Lau (The gangster) likeable in the “Infernal Affairs.” This could be due to the differing endings or the way Scorsese wanted to portray the film as his own interpretation.

In this movie, Nicholson reestablishes his place as one of the greatest actors ever, and will need to clear his mantle for another Oscar. His unflinching demented portrayal of mob boss Costello outshines the rest of the cast, as he blends his famous characters, the Joker from “Batman,” and Jack Torrance from “The Shining.” His grin (a trademark of Nicholson), and casual delivery of lines made him devilishly cool. It was easy to see that Nicholson reveled in the role and had fun doing it no matter how over the top Costello was. On the website imdb.com, Nicholson describes Costello as “the ultimate incarnation of evil.”

At one point in the movie Costello orders Costigan’s already-broken hand to be re-broken so he can make sure he’s not a cop. Mob boss Costello then begins pounding Costigan’s hand with his own boot, to establish he’s not to be crossed.

Surprisingly, one of the most underrated performances came from Mark Whalberg, whose one-liners provided comic relief. He fit well as the shrewd Sergeant Dignam, the only other person who knew Costigan was undercover.

Scorsese doesn’t let us down with his direction. Even though he’s not breaking new ground and in no way standing up to the magnitude of his earlier masterpieces, “Mean Streets” or “Taxi Driver,” it takes us back to the classic Scorsese that made him one of the premiere directors of the seventies.

After taking a few years to do biographical pieces such as “The Aviatior” and the Bob Dylan documentary, “No Direction Home,” it was time for him to return to his roots, and with a pairing like Scorsese and Nicholson, “The Departed” couldn’t have been a better first time collaboration project for the two film giants.

“The Departed” also incorporates Scorsese’s use of rock’n’roll music, featuring The Rolling Stones, and Van Morrison & The Band. The soundtrack fits perfect, paralleling the movies moral ambiguity of the so called good and bad guys that are in question as both Costigan and Sullivan are forced to make certain choices that affect their chances at survival.

“The Departed” delivers what the expected, a high caliber crime drama that explodes with dynamic chemistry, a good script, and suspense that keeps you at edge. Also, for double the pleasure, go to a video store and check out the original Hong Kong film, but whether or not you care for the original, “The Departed” is finally a remake worth the nine bucks.

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