Derek Winnert

Donnie Brasco **** (1997, Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, James Russo, Anne Heche, Zeljko Ivanek) – Classic Movie Review 217


This 1997 real-life gangster movie is a scintillating, epic look at the New York Mafia in 1978, based by screenwriter Paul Attanasio on a true-story book by Joseph D Pistone and Richard Woodley.


An ideally cast Al Pacino is stupendous as Lefty Ruggiero, a lower-rank mobster constantly overlooked by the hierarchy, who befriends young hood Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp). It turns out that Donnie is really undercover FBI agent Joseph D Pistone, who is gathering information on the Mob and is infiltrating himself into a Mafia faction led by Sonny Black (Michael Madsen). As things get dangerously risky for Donnie, the FBI decide to pull him from the operation, but he no longer knows where his loyalties lie.


This is a dark-toned, naturalistic look at the tragic events, grittily made by director Mike Newell, who rightly concentrates more on the complexities of the relationships than on the action. Depp is as just remarkable as Pacino, with both actors seen at their very best. Cinematographer Peter Sova helps ensure a very striking-looking movie. It also stars Bruno Kirby, James Russo, Anne Heche and Zeljko Ivanek.

Weirdly, the director had just made An Awfully Big Adventure and Four Weddings and a Funeral with Hugh Grant.

© Derek Winnert 2013 Classic Movie Review 217

Check out more reviews on


Comments are closed.

Recent articles

Recent comments