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on 2 January 2003
Goodfellas takes all the plaudits, and deservedly so, as being the third best gangster film of all time (behind Godfathers I & II) but Donnie Brasco has to make the Top Five, surely. This is an utterly brilliant, thrilling, amusing and moving tale based on the true story of an undercover cop (Joe Pistone, Johnny Depp) who befriends an ageing Mafia gangster (Lefty, Al Pacino) and then is torn between good and evil. This film has never received the accolades it deserved. OK, the story isn't entirely original, but the casting and acting is first class. This is probably the film where Depp proved he was more than just a pretty-boy actor and turns in a towering performance as Pistone, who slowly becomes his gangster alias, Donnie Brasco. The ever watchable Pacino is as good as he is in Scarface and Carlito's Way, though for once the viewer sympathises with rather than fears him. Another superbly cast character is Michael Madsen (Mr Blonde from Reservoir Dogs) who is just born to play bad-guy roles. There is plenty of amusing dialogue, too, especially between Lefty, Sonny Black and Brasco. This isn't a comedy though, far from it. It is a superb piece of drama from Mike Newell, best known for Four Weddings And A Funeral but has done little since.
The extras are OK but nothing too special. It's the film that you will buy this DVD for. An underrated classic.
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on 21 August 2003
Based on a true story that is so amazing and shocking, "Donnie Brasco" is a fantastic film that hooks you from start to finish. With stars like Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen and many more, this is a movie that should be seen by all.
FBI Joseph D. Pistone is an undercover agent who's goal is to get into the violent and unpredictable mob world. He goes the by name of Donnie Brasco. Soon he is discovered by Lefty Ruggiero, who sees potential in the kid and is not aware of who Brasco really is. He brings him into the family and the world of the Mafia. It doesn't take long for Joseph to get so deep into the action that he starts to become one of them. This unforgettable picture shows us that sometimes you can become what you chase if you're in too long, and that in order to catch a monster you may become one yourself in the process.
I became addicted to this film in no time. It's one of my favourites that I have seen over and over again, and it hasn't gotten old yet. The acting and directing is all fantastic. Al Pacino really shines, as always, and Johnny Depp gives an Academy Award performance as the FBI agent. He actually spent time with the real Joseph Pistone to get his character down, as he did when he was working on "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and spent time with the real Hunter S. Thompson. Michael Madsen is also terrific and can once again send chills down our spines just as he did in "Reservoir Dogs."
All in all, "Donnie Brasco" is an outstanding picture on all fronts. Filled with drama and suspense, this is a film that will take you deep into the world of the Mafia. The only question is how far would you go? And would you risk becoming one of them when it's all said and done? Excellent all the way!
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on 30 January 2002
This is quality. Obviously Al Pacino and Johnny Deep are on top form, we wouldnt expect anything else! Better than The Godfather and Goodfellers? Just different. But not only has it the makings of a classic gangster film, its about how tight the bonds of friendship are. This might sound cheesy, but its so powerful you cannot but be moved by it. The picture of the dvd is really good too.
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on 21 September 2002
I watch a lot of mafia type documentaries and films as I am very interested in the ethics and workings of the organisation behind the mafia. This film could have been a documentary - it is very believable. I read the book quite a while before the film came out and was surprised how close to the book the director kept the script and action A job well done.
Al Pacino (despite being fairly type-cast as the Sicilian baddie)is an extrordinary actor who always makes you believe that his characters are real. I have only seen Johnny Depp in this film (although I know he's made a lot more)but found him very realistic too.
A film for anyone to watch for the social interaction and (few, admittedly)light comic scenes as well as the obvious gangster theme.
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VINE VOICEon 31 January 2007
Wow. Johnny Depp is superb as the undercover agent that was that good the Mafia didn't believe he was an undercover FBI agent. Pacino produces a sublime effort as 'Lefty' the ruthless yet loveable gangster who takes 'Donnie' under his wings giving him access to the Mafia world he needed to do his job. Michael Madsen plays the boss. Ruthless, funny and violent (sometimes all at once). The film twists and turns drawing you in like Brasco was in real life. Eventually almost wishing he really was a 'made' guy. Brasco has a real friendship with the men he worked with for years. Especially Lefty. When pulled off the job he is actually physically removed by fellow FBI officers. He resists. But it to no avail. Racked with guilt he knows Lefty will pay the price for bringing him into the Mafia world. It is a testament to the brilliance of the performances and writing that you actually feel sorry for Lefty who is a killer. All round this is a highly polished affair and compulsive viewing.
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on 9 September 2001
i knew what this film was about before i even watched this movie and i thought that i knew what to expect and that would be that. but i was wrong! i found the beginning of this movie a bit slow for me, but not boring. but when the action starts, if you blink, then you probably miss something! i found depp's portrayl of this character absolutely fascinating and realistic. you could look into his eyes and know exactly what he was feeling and the same with pacino's chracter. even though pacino's character isn't the nicest in this movie, by the end you do care for him because of what him and depp's character have gone through. and when you watch what depp's character has to go through, you feel sorry for him and just want him to get through. enjoy this movie and marvel at it!
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on 17 August 2006
I am a great fan of Gangster films, but this changes the way i think about gangsters, this has the violence and crime you'd expect but it also shows the close relationships of the mobsters especially the bond between Al Pacino and Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp plays the deep undercover FBI agent who infiltrates the familys of new york to bring them down but he gets in to deep and stumbles across 'Lefty' (Al Pacino)who takes him under his wing and treats him like a son. Al Pacino has great performance and his character has a very dark humour to him as well as Johnny Depp. In my eyes a great film but remember don't excpect this gangster flick to be guns blazing, murder and crime as thats not what its about.
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on 6 May 2005
Al Pacino has starred alongside many youth actors, from Chris O Donnell (Scent of a Woman), Keanu Reeves (The Devil's Advocate) and Colin Farrell (The Recruit) but I don't think he has ever been more compatible on the screen with any of these, than what he was with Johnny Depp in this superb film.
He plays Lefty. A small time gangster who decides to take young Donnie Brasco under his wing and show him the ropes of the mafia world. Unaware of the fact that he is actually an undercover fed trying to land himself the trust of the mob, so he can eventually catch the boss.
This film is dramatic, tense and offers many sentimental messages regarding respect, friendship and mainly trust. As Donnie slowly grows fond of Lefty and creates a fickle bond with him it shows a change of loyalties as his marriage fails, and his mission is jeopardised by the friendly compassion he has developed for Lefty.
Al Pacino is on top form and shows he has a sensitive side to him, and Depp offers sound support. Mike Newell directs subtly and with the detailed styles of other great sensitive directors such as Jonathan Demme and Steven Spielberg.
I urge you to watch this exceptionally good film.
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VINE VOICEon 15 April 2016
This review is going to focus on the blu-ray US import version of the 1997 gangster film, Donnie Brasco. The reason for this is that in 2007, Sony released an "Extended Cut" featuring an extra 20 minutes footage (taking the running time up to 147 minutes); of further possible interest to UK audiences, is that this version was never released in Britain, hence the US import review.

No doubt as most of you already know, Donnie Brasco tells the (mostly) true story of how FBI agent Joseph Pistone (convincingly acted by Johnny Depp) worked undercover for six years in the 1970s, infiltrating the Bonanno mafia family in New York City. His gateway in to this world was through Benjamin "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero, an aging hitman for the mob, brilliantly portrayed by Al Pacino (Pacino, here, plays a mafia character on the very bottom rung of the hierarchy, the diametric opposite to his Michael Corleone of The Godfather). Lefty comes to regard Donnie as the son he wished he had and as the two men bond, Donnie's critical distance from the mob becomes diminished (in reality, Agent Pistone never felt this deep sense of empathy for Lefty, as Ruggiero was a stone-cold killer with over two dozen murders under his belt).

The blu-ray US import is not region coded, so it will work on UK blu-ray players. The video quality is solid with some good detail on the wider street scenes and the audio is respectable, given that it's mostly about older men talking in rooms. The best of the limited extras is a 23 minute documentary that contains an interview with the real Joseph Pistone.

While I enjoyed immensely Donnie Brasco upon its initial theatrical release, the only real issue I had with the film was that while the story spans six years, that sense of this time actually passing was never really captured on film. The additional twenty minutes footage of this Extended Cut, making the film almost two and a half hours long, now resolves that issue; there are additional mob scenes but most importantly, Pistone's declining domestic life has some flesh put on the bones, which is something the real Pistone said was initially missing from this film (another departure from the true story is that in reality, Pistone never hit his wife). Scenes of Agent Pistone engaged in domestic chores or arguing with his wife, or engaging in trivial banter with his mafia "friends" were not essential to the film and I can understand why they were initially cut, in the William Faulkner, kill-your-darlings, sense. However, they make the film both more intimate and yet bigger and add that all important detail to the story.

As to who actually restored this footage to the film, I am at a loss, though it doesn't appear to be British director Mike Newell, as this is not labelled a "Director's Cut" but rather just an "Extended Cut." This made me suspicious of the potential care and quality of this edit but certainly the additional scenes have been edited appropriately and nothing looks or feels out of place or jarring.

The gangster genre is one of the defining genres in American cinema, with films like The Godfather (parts I & II) and Goodfellas popularly being considered amongst the best films ever made. Donnie Brasco, while not hitting those heights, is certainly a great addition to this category, with another amazing Al Pacino performance as a frustrated mafiosi, never getting the credit he feels he deserves, while also schooling new kid on the block Donnie Brasco in the customs and language of the mob. This Extended Cut of Donnie Brasco is well worth getting if you feel the same way about the mob genre. Writer Paul Attanasio has crafted a great story and delivered some classic mafia dialogue, such as, "When they send for you, you go in alive, you come out dead and it's your best friend that does it."
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on 14 August 2007
How many times have you heard the saying "This is Pacinos Best performance" Well this is !! In this he isn't the high flying Gangster , he is nowhere near the Godfather , he is a foot soldier a long way off getting any respect or status , but he believes one day he will get the blessing and become a made guy. Watch his performance in this amazing film , yes it has it's slow parts. Watch out for the scene where he is in the car with Johnny Depp explaining that he is always thinking about getting the dreaded phone call where upon he is called in by the mob to be killed , it's just amazing . Johnny Depp also is on top form.
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