Donnie Brasco (1997) - Rotten Tomatoes

Donnie Brasco (1997)



Critic Consensus: A stark, nuanced portrait of life in organized crime, bolstered by strong performances from Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.

Movie Info

This drama about an undercover cop who learns the hidden dangers of working his way inside the mob was based on a true story. Joe Pistone (Johnny Depp) is an FBI agent who is given an assignment to infiltrate the Mafia; calling himself Donnie Brasco, he befriends Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino), a low-level mob hit man whose personal life is in tatters. Lefty's marriage is falling apart, his son is a junkie, and his health is failing, which only adds to his growing disillusionment about having spent 30 years with the Mafia (and killing 26 people) with little to show for it. But in Donnie, Lefty sees someone who can succeed where he failed; he takes the young man under his wing, and under Lefty's tutelage Donnie quickly rises through the ranks of organized crime; however, the longer he plays the role of the gangster, the more Joe Pistone finds himself becoming Donnie Brasco in his increasingly rare off hours; it drives a wedge between himself and his wife (Anne Heche) and children, and Joe realizes that a break in character among the hoodlums he's come to know could mean a death sentence for himself and his family. Just as importantly, Joe has come to regard Lefty as a close and trusted friend, and Joe realizes that when the day comes where he has to turn in his Mob associates, he'll be ending Lefty's life as surely as if he put a slug in his head himself. The supporting cast includes Michael Madsen as Sonny, Lefty's boss, and Bruno Kirby as Nicky, one of Sonny's henchmen. The real-life Joe Pistone today lives under an assumed name with a 500,000-dollar contract on his life still in effect.more
Rating: R (adult situations/language, sex, violence)
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Paul Attanasio
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 20, 1998


Al Pacino
as Lefty Ruggiero
Johnny Depp
as Joe Pistone/Donnie B...
Michael Madsen
as Sonny Black
Anne Heche
as Maggie Pistone
eljko Ivanek
as Tim Curley
Gerry Becker
as Dean Blandford
Zach Grenier
as Dr. Berger
Zeljko Ivanek
as Tim Curley
Robert Miano
as Sonny Red
Rocco Sisto
as Richie Gazzo
Ronnie Farer
as Annette
Terry Serpico
as Strip Club Owner
Gretchen Mol
as Sonny's Girlfriend
Tony Lip
as Philly Lucky
Val Avery
as Santos Trafficante
Kate Sagona
as Daughter
Sara Gold
as Daughter
Tim Blake Nelson
as FBI Technician
Paul Giamatti
as FBI Technician
Jim Bulleit
as US Attorney
Andrew Parks
as Hollman
Keenan Shimizu
as Japanese Maitre D'
Rocco Musacchia
as Trafficante's Man
Joe Francis
as Trafficante's Man
Sal Jenco
as Mare Chiaro Bartende...
Billy Capucilli
as Communion Party Man
Laura Cahill
as Communion Party Woma...
Doreen Murphy
as Mob Girlfriend
Elle Alexander
as Mob Girlfriend
Denise Faye
as Mob Girlfriend
Elaine del Valle
as Mob Girlfriend
John Horton
as FBI Director
Dan Brennan
as FBI Photographer
Frank Pesce
as Wiseguy
Edward Black
as Wiseguy
Pat Vecchio
as Wiseguy
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Donnie Brasco

Critic Reviews for Donnie Brasco

All Critics (58) | Top Critics (18)

Although perhaps familiar in its outer trappings, Pacino's fine work is the key to the film succeeding to the extent that it does.

Full Review… | November 20, 2008
Top Critic

A tense, sharp and compelling character study, Newell's film is a worthy addition to the Mob-movie canon.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Unfortunately, the story isn't inventive and Newell's methodical approach to it verges on monotony.

Full Review… | August 14, 2002
Washington Post
Top Critic

A first-class Mafia thriller that is also, in its way, a love story.

Full Review… | June 18, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

In the tired figure of Lefty, manifest in the craggy icon of Pacino, our sympathies are definitely enlisted, and the theme rings a poignant note.

Full Review… | April 12, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Pacino and Depp are a match made in acting heaven, riffing off each other with astonishing subtlety and wit.

May 11, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Donnie Brasco

I'm over a decade and a half late, but I finally watched Donnie Brasco. Went in not knowing a clue about who or what the movie was about, but afterwards I was left feeling stupid. Stupid because I didn't watch such a great mobster/suspense film sooner. It's pretty awesome to see Johnny Depp in a role where he is not playing a pirate or a man with scissors attached to his hands lol; if only he could get back to more of this real life acting. I enjoyed the movie and thought it flowed really well.

Eric Alvarez
Eric Alvarez

Super Reviewer

WOO! A breath of fresh air. After a recommendation from a good friend of mine -- yup, I'm talking to you Rottentomatoes buddy ;) -- "Donnie Brasco" took me by a big surprise. What an enthralling piece of work that surges the audience into a non-Hollywood-ized portrayal of an everyday Mafia lifestyle. Everything you can ask for from a movie, "Donnie Brasco" answers it all.

An undercover within the mob. It's been done countless and millions of times. However, when done as exquisitely as "Donnie Brasco" does, it's like watching an original plotline again. The obvious story outcomes that we're expecting from a plotline in this type of genre, "Donnie Brasco" hurdles over somewhat the same plot-points with a higher emphasis on the psyche and the hidden. Altogether, it makes for an incredibly rich and engaging narrative. One of the most entertaining mafia flicks I've seen in an extremely long time, mainly due to the mind-blowingly outstanding performances -- by the likes of Johnny Depp and the infamous Al Pacino, -- the entertaining dips and dives of the narrative, and the exquisitely sharp writing that throws a lot of comedic punches to the gut, all the while having a sober basis on reality. "Donnie Brasco", with these elements done in grade-A fashion, manages to place itself as one of the most well-paced gangster movies of all time. Not once does the movie begin to outstay its welcome.

There's not much more to talk about without giving out the vital details of the narrative. Everything within this film works. This is a pitch-perfect, immaculate B-movie mafia flick, coupled with real rich tension, characters the audience deeply sympathizes with, and a narrative that's buttery-smooth. "Donnie Brasco" is a much watch.

Albert Kim
Albert Kim

Super Reviewer

Undercover FBI agent Johnny Depp is taken under the wing of low level mobster Al Pacino and soon finds that the lines between his work and his personal life start to blur. Donnie Brasco is the true story of Joseph Pistone whose testimony resulted in hundreds of arrests within the New York Mafia in the late 1970s. Pacino plays the virtual opposite of Tony Montana in this warts and all depiction of life in the mob; he is a rather pathetic figure, little more than a flunky to self serving bosses within a world that's riddled with duplicity, treachery and hypocrisy. His partnership with Depp works really well as you start to feel the same sympathy for this shambling, dishevelled figure trying to get ahead without the intelligence or faculties to do so and the film is one of the first mainstream American films to tackle the implications of the work for a deep cover operative. Mike Newell's direction is maybe a little too slick so it was never going to challenge Goodfellas or The Godfather, but thanks to a fascinating true life story that's expertly performed it's a minor classic and worthy forerunner to the likes of The Departed and American Gangster.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

Donnie Brasco Quotes

– Submitted by Nash A (3 years ago)
– Submitted by Nash A (3 years ago)
– Submitted by Chris P (4 years ago)

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