Archive for the ‘Departed’ Category

Disappointing films of 2006

January 13, 2007

Popmatters has an interesting article on the most disappointing movies of 2006. I guess this would include movies that were just plain overhyped, which perhaps you can’t completely blame on the director and stars, but it’s still a disappointment.

Many of the movies listed there escaped my attention. I mean, I’ve heard of them, I just didn’t see them, although Superman Returns is right here on my desk. As for the ones I have seen (Borat, Snakes on a Plane, V for Vendetta), I wasn’t really disappointed in any of them. I loved Borat and I thought Snakes was perfectly cheesy. Vendetta was a LITTLE disappointing, but only because I thought it would be more of a social-revolution kind of movie, and it wasn’t. (I agree about Portman’s performance, though.)

For me, I thought the following 2006 films were disappointing: Nacho Libre, American Dreamz, The Departed. Yeah, that’s about it, I think. I thought Jack Black as a wrestler would be comedy gold, but the movie stunk – it was painful to watch. American Dreamz seemed like it should have had much more bite, but it mostly just bit.

And The Departed? Well, it’s on just about everyone’s Top 10 list, but I didn’t quite care for it. I thought Nicholson was hammy and that DiCaprio and Damon looked way too similar. The twist ending was telegraphed well in advance. Even Alec Baldwin didn’t make much sense – he seemed to be overacting. Martin Sheen was the best, though.

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282 – The Departed

October 28, 2006

Matt Damon is a sergeant in the Massachusetts State Police who’s secretly working for Jack Nicholson’s gang. Leonardo DiCaprio is a former bad boy deep undercover in Nicholson’s gang. But whose side is each really on? And will this end in anything but total, major bloodshed? The answer to the first question is, “Who cares”; to the second, “duh.”

Like many people, I went into this movie with high expectations, but unlike most (judging from the early returns), I was pretty disappointed with the result. Let’s take a look at some of the good and bad points.

1. Martin Scorcese directed it, so I was expecting not only a lot of gunplay and a lot of profanity, but a lucid screenplay. I mean, this is the guy who did Goodfellas, for crying out loud, which this movie should have closely resembled. In case you forgot, he also did Raging Bull and Mean Streets. Now, granted, Scorcese didn’t write the script, but cmon. He’s got the clout to make changes to it on the set.

2. Jack Nicholson is just all right. I like Jack. (Who doesn’t? Seriously.) But nowadays, he plays the same basic character no matter the role, no matter if he’s a Good Guy or a Bad Guy. He’s Jack. Apparently, Robert DeNiro was approached to play the role of Frank Costello, but he was busy working on his own film, The Good Shepherd. So enter Smilin’ Jack, and I dunno; I think DeNiro would have been much, much better.

3.Profanity. No, I like profanity. Love it! Even gratuitously, it’s usually perfectly okay. See, for example, the aforementioned Goodfellas. But it seemed here that profanity was used merely to see how many times the f word and c word could be said in a movie. After a while (say an hour), it quickly got tiresome, sounding more like a high school locker room than anything else.

4. Comic relief. Who said there needed to be comic relief? Someone must have thought so, because we had not one but two comic roles: Alec Baldwin’s Ellerby and Mark Wahlberg’s Dignan. Okay, they weren’t there solely for comic relief, but they were given funny lines that seemed wholly incongruous with the rest of the picture. Instead of being a subtle change in direction (you’re expecting drama and they shift to comedy), the result is jarring. When the timing is right, it works, but more often than not I wondered what the actors were doing in the same movie as Nicholson, DiCaprio, and Damon.

5. Damon and DiCaprio. I’ve never been a huge fan of either one, although I’ve liked Damon’s Bourne movies to a degree. I think my primary complaint is that they both perpetually look about sixteen years old, not the kind of persona you want in a purportedly gritty crime drama. They both have more gravitas now than they did, say, ten years ago, but still nowhere near enough to carry the heavy workload, characterwise, that this particular type of movie demands.

6. Accents. The setting is Boston, and most of the leads are playing Irish Americans. Damon, who’s from Massachusetts, and DiCaprio sounded fine, but Nicholson’s Boston accent came and went – it was usually absent, come to think of it.

Like I said, the screenplay didn’t feel particularly tight; it’s as if the writers (William Monahan and Siu Fai Mak) just borrowed from all of the cop films of the past without providing any nuance to hold interest. For example, there was a subplot involving the girlfriend/fiancee/wife of Damon’s character. Why? I’m not saying we shouldn’t know anything about her, but she didn’t seem to be much of an influence on Damon’s character anyway, so why bother with her? Oh, I see, so that we could include a second romantic angle with her and someone else. But why would we want that? Bring on the guns, bring on the cussin, and ditch the romance – it neither enhances the plot or titilates the audience. (Kristin Dalton, who played the love interest in question, didn’t turn in much of a performance, but I don’t think she exactly had a layer-rich character with which she could work.)

Then there’s the obligatory sex scene, which should have felt erotic but came off as awkward, as did the two (yes, two) first-date scenes. Bah.

Here’s a positive remark, though. Kudos to an on-target performance by Martin Sheen, as DiCaprio’s boss. Might be his best work in movies in years, kind of an expanded version of his role in Catch Me If You Can, also starring DiCaprio.

Another plus, perhaps, is the high body count. Lots of death in this one, and it’s not just unknown extras who get whacked. And the deaths are particularly gruesome at times – bullets through the skull, plenty of ’em, leave huge splatters of blood on the back walls of elevators. That sort of thing. A loudmouth audience member to the left of me wailed that it was “just like a Shakespeare play!” True enough, because so many of the main characters of those tragedies were slain, usually quite unceremoniously.

So maybe I’m just a grump. Maybe I’ve reached the point where no movie can satisfy me, particularly when I pay nearly ten bucks to watch it in a theater full of incredibly stupid and/or rude people. Maybe I’m too jaded to appreciate true genius. But I don’t think so; I think a year or so from now, we won’t even remember The Departed as anything more than a slight footnote to Scorcese’s great career.

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