Released in 1997, Mike Newell’s gritty and superb organized crime drama Donnie Brasco features a top-flight turn from Al Pacino as an aging, low-level, worker-bee gangster with sadness behind his tired eyes, and Johnny Depp in one of his better performances as an undercover FBI agent who gets in too close for comfort with a particularly nasty set of violent mafia-men. Paul Attanasio’s intelligent, fact-based, and propulsive screenplay wasted not a moment in kicking the story off in high fashion, with Newell never overtly trying to replicate any other genre entry that has made this milieu one of the most popular in cinema history. A hit with critics and a solid box office performer, this is the type of movie that has gained an even more solid footing in the years since its release, as it’s a non-nonsense and very sturdy piece of filmmaking with some zesty supporting performances (Michael Madsen and Bruno Kirby in particular) and a few extremely memorable sequences, with an ending that leaves an emotionally conflicted lump in your throat.


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