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Donnie Brasco (1997)
Donnie Brasco is a 1997 crime drama film directed by Mike Newell, and starring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp. Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, James Russo, and Anne Heche appeared in supporting roles. The film is based on the life of Joseph D. Pistone, an FBI agent who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family in New York City during the 1970s, under the alias "Donnie Brasco". It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. The true story of an FBI undercover agent (Johnny Depp) who becomes Donnie Brasco, "The Jewel Man" to infiltrate one of the mob families. Donnie maneuvers his way into the confidence of aging hit-man, Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino) who trusts Donnie and vouches for him to the mob. As Donnie moves deeper and deeper into the Mafia chain of command, he realizes that not only is he crossing the line between federal agent and criminal, but that he is also leading his friend Lefty to an almost certain death sentence. Starting in 1978, FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone is assigned to infiltrate the New York City–based Bonanno crime family.
Well, someone had to wrest the monopoly on gangster movies from the hands of Scorsese and Coppola. So why not Mike Newell, of Four Weddings and a Funeral fame, to direct it? And why not put Johnny Depp in a starring role? And Anne Heche -- you know, Ellen's girlfriend -- as his wife!? It sounds bizarre, but put this group together with Monster of Acting Pacino and Quiz Show scribe Paul Attanasio and you've got a pleasant surprise on your hands.
Long stuck in development because of GoodFellas, Donnie Brasco is in many ways a similar film, and in most of them better. The true story of FBI agent Joe Pistone, who in the late 70s infiltrated his way into the New York mafia to become a "made man" under the name of Donnie Brasco, Depp is surprisingly believable as an earnest father caught up in the mob mentality. Pacino shines as always, though it's not his usual character; here he's a tragic King Lear who just can't catch a break.
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