A deranged wit runs through "The Departed," which finds Martin Scorsese up to his same old tricks of exploring the ritualized tribal aggression of an American ethnic subculture with frequent detours into carnage and mayhem.
Here, Scorsese plumbs the colorful depths of the Irish mob in Boston, where in the South End, once, you either became a bag man or a cop. Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson play three men who came up in Southie, only to end up on opposite sides of the law or, more likely, straddling both.
Nicholson, as a wily old crime boss, delivers a bravura performance that often tips into outright comedy; Damon and DiCaprio, meanwhile, are well matched as two bright, ambitious young men whose motives are never quite clear. (See In Focus on Page 35.)
"The Departed," which screenwriter William Monahan cleverly adapted from the Hong Kong thriller "Infernal Affairs," crackles right along, stopping only long enough for Scorsese's signature bursts of explosive violence. Those brawls feel a bit rote, but what's different here is a newfound playful humor. Supporting actors Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg deliver the funniest lines in the film, which, after the penultimate bloodbath, announces its true intentions with a final, distinctly un-Scorsese-like visual joke.
-- Ann Hornaday (Oct. 5, 2006)
Contains strong, brutal violence, pervasive profanity, strong sexual content and drug material.