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Laramie Movie Scope:
Donnie Brasco

Watching Pacino and Depp together is a criminal pleasure

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by Patrick Ivers, Film Critic
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(1997) If you don't move up in the organization, you're going to be looking over your shoulder everyday. It's "them or us," says Lefty, as the mobsters butcher their victims with hacksaws to dispose of the corpses. Based on a true crime story (book by Joseph D. Pistone with Richard Woodley), director Mike Newell presents the life of an FBI undercover agent who after two years infiltrating a family of the Mafia as up-and-coming Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp) finds he's unable to extricate himself from the mobsters.

Unable to reveal his work to his wife Maggie (Anne Heche), for her and their three children's protection, Joe's long absences (missing Christmas and his oldest daughter's first communion) fray their marriage.

In November 1978 Donnie, a jewel guy from Florida, makes acquaintance with Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero (Al Pacino) in a New York City bar, convincing the wiseguy (roughing up the original seller of his wife's ring) that a diamond he's been sold is actually zircon, a fugazi (a fake). Lefty, convinced he can trust Donnie, teaches the rookie how wiseguys behave: they don't pay for drinks, they're always right (even when they're wrong), they carry their cash in a roll (never in a wallet), they don't sport mustaches (Donnie shaves his).

Spending Christmas Day in Lefty's home, meeting the wiseguy's wife and 28-year-old junkie son, Donnie receives Lefty's pledge: "I'm your man - nobody can touch you. I'm responsible for you." After the boss gets whacked, Lefty tells Donnie, "I got sent for," explaining that you go in alive but come out dead. Told to wait in the car while Lefty goes into a warehouse with Nicky (Bruno Kirby), Pauli (James Russo), and Sonny Black (Michael Madsen), Donnie sits tight, thinking he's about to lose his connection to the mob.

Spoiler alert. When they re-emerge, everyone's alive: Sonny's been promoted to skipper; and as a reward for Lefty's looking after things while Sonny was in the can, Lefty receives a live lion in a cage.

Agent Dean Blandford (Gerry Becker) finds Joe difficult to control but gets him to suggest to Sonny a move of operations to Miami. "You think you can trust Sonny Black?" Lefty asks Donnie before they move down to the Sunshine State into the Kings Court nightclub, imagining his boy's gravitating toward the skipper, who informs Donny: "I want you to represent me down here. You belong to me now."

After the police raid the casino, Lefty says to his fellow wiseguys: "There's gotta be a snitch here." Telling the others that the cops got all of the take, Donnie hides $300,000 in the attic in his home. Joe replies to Maggie's pleading ("I pretend you're dead") for him to get out of his association with the ganglanders: "If I come out, Lefty dies."

Meanwhile, Lefty has assured Donnie that if the next contract is good: "You're gonna be a made guy." Watching Pacino and Depp together is a criminal pleasure.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2008 Patrick Ivers. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Patrick Ivers can be reached via e-mail at nora's email address at juno. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)