Clocking in at nearly 152 minutes, director Martin Scorsese's latest film 'The Departed' is supposed to be a triumphant return to his roots of wise-cracking wise guys, us-versus-them shoot-ups and a whole lot of street smart pretty - and ugly - boys. I wanted desperately to like it given the film's acting chops - Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, and Leonardo DiCaprio - but I will risk being drummed out the film critics' guild because I dare to buck against conventional wisdom that anything Scorsese directs is sacrosanct.
Scorsese violated my cardinal filmmaking rules - keep it reasonably simple, keep it original (unless you have a killer story), keep it tight, and keep it short. It's neither simple, nor original nor tight, nor short.
From appearances, it really is a simple story. It's about bad guys and good guys. The Massachusetts State Police working in concert with the FBI is looking to take down Jack Nicholson's Frank Costello, Boston's local Irish mafia guy. He has the prerequisite army of minions to do his bidding of murder, drug dealing, and general mayhem.
And, of course, there are the mandatory issues of squealers, double-crossers and dirty cops. So originality goes out the window.
What mucks up the simplicity aspect is the excessive over-plotting. The story needless meanders into subplot purgatory by tossing in a love interest, and, of course, the woman 'loves' both informants - the rat in the police department (Damon) and the insider in Costello's mob (DiCaprio).
Not sure why this is here except to dramatize DiCaprio's confliction and show that he's really the better guy.
And the editing is an inconsistent, demanding interpretation of the story's time line that is confusing. Flashbacks or more descriptive 'side backs' interrupt the narrative flow. Quick cuts to another character's situation get a bit confusing.
But, I will say the acting by some is good. Damon plays Colin Sullivan, the befriended youth, with a touch of sociopath-like qualities. DeCaprio as Billy Costigan is obviously the more conflicted character, being inside mob doing dirty deeds that normally would have him behind bars until forever. Unfortunately, Jack's just Jack again.