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Category:    Home > Reviews > Gangster > Thriller > The Departed (HD-DVD/DVD Combo Format)

The Departed (HD-DVD/DVD Combo Format)


Picture: B+/B-     Sound: B+/B-     Extras: C+     Film: B



Though he has done many types of films and very successfully as only a master filmmaker could, Martin Scorsese has become best known for his work in the Gangster genre.  From hints of that world in his earliest works, to the most explicit renderings, he and Francis Coppola rewrote the genre (along with Oliver Stone co-writing Michael Cimino’s Year Of The Dragon and Brian De Palma’s Scarface, plus David Chase’s TV classic The Sopranos) into how we know it today.  When I was recently asked why there had been few to no Gangster films lately, I explained The Sopranos was cornering the market on the genre with little else to offer, though I also knew Scorsese was making The Departed.


Like the famed hit TV show, this remake of Infernal Affairs is a sort of conclusion, long goodbye and quickly closing period of the genre at its most realistic.  Sure, there are many other great Gangster films (especially from 1990) and there will be more, but the stories as brutal as we now know them have taken viewers on an odyssey that is coming to an end the way so many of Scorsese’s such anti-heroes have.  The twist here is that instead of doing another Italian Mob film with Jewish Mob affiliation, here is Scorsese remaking an Asian Gangster hit involving the Irish Mob in South Boston (interesting, though not as effective as Phil Joanou’s State Of Grace, from 1990, reviewed elsewhere on this site) with brief crossings between police power (usually incidental in most of these films) and the most interesting appearance of the Chinese Triads since Year Of The Dragon however brief.


Jack Nicholson is Frank Costello, the longtime head of the Irish Mob endlessly targeted by local, state and federal authorities, but to no avail.  Anxious to nail him and destroy his organization, a task force is being set up to bring him down for good, including the bright new star of the force, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon).  What the authorities don’t know is that Colin is an old friend of Costello feeding him tips to stay a few steps ahead of them.  What only two men know inside the department other than Colin is that Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is now secretly undercover and working as a mole among Costello and his crew.  The battle of wits begins.


The feds become very interested when it looks like Costello has stolen vital technology that could breach national defense when he intends to sell vital technology the Chinese need via a triad for big bucks.  That increases the pressure all around.  Costigan keeps taking near fatal risks as Sullivan tries to find him and the mystery and suspense of the piece makes the deadly lifestyle of gangsters more so as the police are also in increased harms way.


Besides being one of his few blockbuster hits, one reason Scorsese is getting so much recognition for this is simply because it is his work coming full circle, influencing several generations of filmmakers worldwide, then here he is taking this popular foreign Gangster film and trumping it all the way as if to answer back that he is the master of this material all the long.  Of course, that also waters down things a bit and pulls Scorsese away from the grander, bolder and more groundbreaking Gangster films he has made before (GoodFellas and Casino in particular) yet shows that he still has the same energy he has had since his early films.


The other big problem is that despite a very effective supporting cast that includes Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone (known for several British Thrillers and Gangster films himself) and Alec Baldwin, Nicholson steals every scene he is in much the way Daniel Day Lewis did in Scorsese’s Gangs Of New York.  That makes a film with much anxiety (not unlike Scorsese’s After Hours if you think about it) and more out of Scorsese’s element than usual to juggle that much more awkward at times.  However, the film does deal with the usual Scorsese themes just the same, such as urban struggle, issues of integrating into society, focus on ethnic groups and issues of persecution complex that can represent flaws for the various characters.


However, the film is so busy juggling the multiple storylines and intersecting lives that it never has the time for any serious self-reflection on any one of the characters.  Some found this to be a nice change of pace for Scorsese, but others like this critic felt it was a more commercial move to go broad to entertain the audience.  Either way, it is a good if not great film, even with its limits.  For another look at the film, you can read our theatrical critic’s take at:





The anamorphically enhanced 2.35 X 1 image on the regular DVD side looks good, with only some minor issues about the detail and a clean, consistent image for the format.  However, it is no match for the 1080p digital HD-DVD High Definition side in delivering the impressive cinematography by long-time Scorsese collaborator Michael Ballhaus, A.S.C., who also shot GoodFellas, but not Casino.  Though I liked the look of Casino in general better, this transfer is one of the best Warner has offered in either HD format yet.  Needless to say, the camerawork is some of the best of the year, as is always the case when these master filmmakers collaborate.


The standard Dolby Digital 5.1 mix on the regular DVD side is adequate and the dialogue is among the sounds favoring the front speakers, but the soundtrack offers so much more than you hear here (as the theatrical screening this critic attended to can attest) and the HD-DVD’s Dolby TrueHD is the way to go, even over the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1.  Yes, Scorsese’s choice of music is always clever, though like some of Kubrick’s choices on The Shining, Scorsese picks music he has previously used as an acknowledgement that this is a more commercial effort.  The mix has its moments, while Howard Shore’s score is a plus to the whole film.


Extras include the original theatrical trailer on the DVD side, plus two featurettes (Crossing Criminal Cultures and The Story Of The Boston Mob) and nine deleted scenes of interest with intros by Scorsese himself.  Not bad for a film that is going to be a very popular title on disc and an HD favorite.  For more on Scorsese, try these links:


Casino (HD-DVD)



GoodFellas (HD-DVD)



Martin Scorsese Collection (MGM)




-   Nicholas Sheffo


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