Hollywood Hues
Super entertainer
Ervell E. Menezes

Martin Scorsese plays the supercool mob boss in The Departed
Martin Scorsese (left) plays the supercool mob boss in The Departed

IN the old days when one was in trouble one went to the cops for help. But today the cops are the last resort for refuge because their reputation has taken such a nosedive. Itís hard to find the good, clean ones as most of them are either with the underworld dons, or informers or rank corrupt. Thatís what comes across loud and clear in Martin Scorseseís The Departed as it touches a new benchmark.

Take powerful mob boss (read godfather) Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) who can be as soft as fluff when showering goodies on friendsí kids in the local bar but as icy and ruthless when it comes to settling scores, old or new. Then put his head on the line and the entire police force gets into "Get Costello" mode and we are in one of the biggest crime cities of the United States, Boston.

Young rookie Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), who grew up in South Boston and whose ancestors were also cops, is assigned the task of infiltrating the Costello mob. But while Costigan is going about his job, another young cop of local origin Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) is also making waves much to the chagrin of Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg) who doesnít hesitate to provoke Sullivan from the day of his graduation. His language is foul, bringing in his disreputable cop family connections. That the two are slated for a final confrontation seems inevitable and Dignamís boss (Martin Sheen) is a silent spectator to the goingson.

When one of the senior police officers (Alec Baldwin) tells his wards to "smash or marginally disrupt organised crime" but the copsí attitude to the underworld is obvious. "We are building a case and you know it takes time," says another. It is an imaginative screenplay by William Monahan and director Scorsese goes about with clinical precision, shades of Mike Newellís Donnie Brasco because this dialogue-heavy film is more European (than American) in style. Most of the action is left to the last quarter of this 150-minute entertainer but as the clich`E9 goes, thereís never a dull moment. In fact it is absorbing, edge-of-the-seat stuff.

And Scorsese has a wealth of talented performers like Damon, DiCaprio and Wahlberg, t with the oldies Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin being relegated to cameos. Whatís more there are a few look-alikes (Damon and DiCaprio) which has the viewer in a tizzy. Newcomer Vera Farmagia plays the lone female, psychiatrist Dr Madolyn, or the romantic interest and she has both the looks and the talent to go places, that is if one overlooks the bar-girl earlier in the film whom Costello patronisingly throws a little change "go, buy some makeup," as the godfather image is being built.

Jack Nicholson, squint-eyed, supercool, whatever slips into his trade-mark persona and has the benefit of the best lines but he comes close to overstepping the bounds of credibility and the now-established young ones, Damon, DiCaprio and Wahlberg are just excellent in their varied personas with Sheen (after quite an absence) and Baldwin are still able to deliver the goods as they ride into the sunset.

The music by Howard Shore is catchy with some nostalgic 1950s numbers and Michael Ballhaus caressing camerawork is another bonus. It is an all-round entertainer in the vintage Scorsese mould. Donít miss it. May be Hollywood, which has consistently ignored Scorsese on Oscars night, may finally relent.