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Donnie Brasco Reviews

Page 1 of 304
Eric A

Super Reviewer

December 2, 2013
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.
Albert K

Super Reviewer

August 31, 2012
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.

Super Reviewer

November 4, 2006
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.

Super Reviewer

May 8, 2011
Lefty: How many times have I had you in my house? If you're a rat, then I'm the biggest mutt in the history of the Mafia. 

"Donnie Brasco. Based on a true story."

Donnie Brasco is an amazing mafia film. First off, right from the get go we know what is going on. Joe Pistone is undercover as Donnie Brasco. His objective is to infiltrate the mob. This movie is constantly pushed aside by people. They'll it's okay, but it's no Goodfellas or Godfather. That isn't what it supposed to be. This is as unglamorous a loom at the life as you will ever see. Pacino's character Lefty isn't the typical mob character we are given. Normally the guy at the center of a mob movie is at the top. He's got money, cars, women, everything he wants, he's got. Not Lefty. He'll even tell you he's got nothing. Lefty along with Pistone don't make for a very glamourous pair. Pistone is on the edge of bringing down the mob, yet he has to deal with his wife who is unhappy with him and also the guilt of Lefty being killed when the mob finds out he was an undercover FBI agent the whole time.

Donnie Brasco features a superb cast. Al Pacino and Johnny Depp are both on the top of their game. They bring out the most in their characters every single scene. Plus there's a great supporting cast including Michael Madsen and Anne Heche, plus glimpses of Paul Giamatti. The film doesn't merely succeed because of the cast though. This real life story is one that needed to be told. It's absolutely engrossing and Mike Newell brings out the most in the story through his tremendous directing. 

There's always suspense in this film. Are they going to find out that Donnie Brasco isn't really Donnie Brasco? There are also moments when we think Lefty is going to get whacked, and then we think Donnie is going to get whacked. Lefty and Donnie are best friends one second, then something changes and we don't really know what Lefty's feelings are anymore. Then there's an article in the paper that Donnie can't have anyone seeing. There's people spotting Donnie on the street, but they don't know him as Donnie so they shout out, "Hey Joe." There's just so many ways for this to all come crumbling down on Joe Pistone and it's absolutely thrilling to watch unravel. 

You can look at this from two levels. First, it's a great mob movie showing the behind the scenes goings on and also the life of a low level worker of the mob. We also learn inside stuff on how they talk and how you get to be a made man. And second, it is a biographical story on Joe Pistone. He risked everything to go in and collect evidence to use against the mob. Either way you look at it, this is a tremendous film. One that deserves more praise than it has gotten.
Lady D

Super Reviewer

March 28, 2007
A good film which I re-watched recently. Undercover cop who gets close to Gangsters
Apeneck F

Super Reviewer

September 8, 2007
A mob buddy movie ... only one of our buds is a rat. Pacino delivers another stellar, complex and surprising performance as a blue collar mobster. Depp too rises to the standard set as the man brought in. Madsen, Kirby, and Heche (!) are more than competent in supporting roles. Much better than the average "based on a true story" rot by far.
Conner R

Super Reviewer

November 19, 2009
I know a lot of people flat out hate Donnie Brasco and call it the poor man's Goodfellas or Scorsese light, but I love it and think those accusations are completely different from the truth. Donnie Brasco does everything it can to take the glamor away from the gangster lifestyle. It shows the terrible lives and choices of the people involved. A lot of this is done through the simple character moments and sequences. However, the main way this is achieved is through the slam dunk performances given by Johnny Depp and Al Pacino. They manage to be sympathetic characters in their own ways, but also show the true ugly side of being a "wiseguy". Both of these characters are very unhappy people who consciously make decisions that ruin their lives. While Donnie manages to escape his death trap in the end, we also see that some people never get out of the game. While this is not as polished and beautiful looking as say Goodfellas, it has no need to be. It's extremely effective the way it is.
Lewis C

Super Reviewer

November 23, 2008
"I'm not becoming like them, I am them."

Donnie Brasco is a true crime story of a federal agent who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family over a period of years, ultimately resulting in a lot of successful prosecutions.

I'm not usually the biggest fan of these kinds of movies, but the cast makes Donnie Brasco pretty interesting, even for those who might not be into it, normally. Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, Michael Madsen, and other less-known (but still great) actors fill Donnie Brasco with performances that keep it as realistic as the subject matter deserves.

It's nice to see Depp take on roles that are grounded in reality, because they prove that he's pretty good at just plain old acting. No eccentric characters required. And as good Al Pacino movies have become pretty rare these days, it's nice to be reminded that the guy is still brilliant at what he does when he gets good material to work with.
Michael S

Super Reviewer

March 4, 2007
A classic modern crime epic. On par with the genre's best.

Super Reviewer

July 7, 2010
Donnie Brasco is a very different gangster film The film shows the audience the going on's behind the scenes in the criminal underworld. A first rate cast gives this superior gangster flick a lot of class. Al Pacino and Johnny Depp deliver strong performances. Donnie Brasco is an intense drama film about an FBI informant that infiltrated the mob in the 1970's. Johnny Depp plays Donnie Brasco, the informant in one of the many crime families of New York City. This is an electrifying film and I have seen my fair share of mob films, and Donnie Brasco is an entirely different film because it shows an informant infiltrating the mob, a theme not really talked about in a gangster film. Sure at times, we see gangsters dealing with rats,.informants, but never have we seen a film with the perspective of the informant, avery interesting premise for a film. Sure may theres The Departed, but it's very different, because Donnie Brasco is based on a real story, and the people in the film are real or are based on real characters. Johnny Depp is terrific as Donnie Brasco, and he gives yet another top notch performance. Depp was definitely well chosen for the role, and in a film, like this, it just shows the amount of talent that he has as an actor and he's able to pull off awesome roles.A very different look at the criminal underworld, Donnie Brasco is a different type of mob film. It takes you behind the scenes of the glamoure and shows you exactly how it is. A very intense and well directed and acted film.
Aditya Gokhale
Aditya Gokhale

Super Reviewer

October 12, 2010
Mike Newell's "Donnie Brasco" is what I call a Gangster drama with a heart!

This movie is not so much about gangster violence as it is about personal conflicts and inner frustrations of the two lead characters of the story.

Based on a true story, "Donnie Brasco" is about the real life "Operation Donnie Brasco" carried out by the FBI, in which Agent Joseph Pistone went undercover as a Jewel thief expert for infiltrating the Bonanno Crime Family in New York during the late 70s.

Johnny Depp stars as Joseph Pistone who goes undercover as Donnie Brasco and befriends Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero (Al Pacino). Lefty is an aging, low-level mob hitman who is not doing very good on the personal front. He does not seem to be financially well off and has a son who's a drug addict. And as is clear from the film's proceedings, he is an underdog in the family, inspite of having as many as 26 hits in his long mafia history. He seems to have remained where he is, and keeps getting stepped over. In his conversations with Donnie he keeps venting out these grievances and Donnie acts as the good listener.

Donnie, on the other hand, has problems of his own, trying to strike a balance between his family life and his demanding job. Anne Heche plays the Mrs. Pistone who is having a difficult time taking care of their three little daughters without their father around. What adds to her woes is the fact that her husband disappears for days together and does not divulge the details of his job to her.

From time to time, Donnie keeps providing his FBI fellow-men all the information he can about Lefty and the rest of the crew including Sonny Black (Michael Madsen). The story develops so forth.

As a gangster film, "Donnie Brasco" does not succeed as well as some other films out there which excel in quality. However, as a character drama centering around the two lead characters, Lefty and Pistone, it certainly delivers.

Johnny Depp delivers a knock-out performance as Joseph Pistone. He is simply great!
He breathes so much life into the character that you can actually see his gradual transformation into a mobster when he begins to walk and talk like them, as his wife rightly puts in one key scene "you are becoming like them"!
If only he did more meaningful roles like these than all those comic book fantasy characters he plays in those countless Tim Burton films ("Ed Wood" is an exception, of course!)

As for Al Pacino, it is very heartbreaking to see him as a failed gangster for once. This is the man who you've seen in numerous films as the angry, dominating, ruthless gangster who always has things his way. But "Donnie Brasco" is quite an exception. Here, he is the loser, who knows he is one and is constantly talking about being stepped over and sidelined all the time by others younger than him. He is tired of getting stuck at the same position inspite of a 30 year old life in the mafia and a commendable number of 'hits' under his belt.

Quite a few notable scenes in which Pacino is simply that comes to mind is the scene in which Sonny Black gets promoted or "upped" as they call it. Pacino's reaction is so natural and convincing, it instantly makes you empathize with him. Plenty of such moments and episodes in this film prove that Pacino delivers one of his finest acting performances in this film.

As for the supporting cast: Quite nice, all of them. Michael Madsen is great, but we are so used to seeing him in gangster roles that it doesn't quite come off as anything different.
Anne Heche does a pretty decent job as the frustrated wife of the busy FBI agent.

Patrick Doyle's original score is superb and melancholic and suits the mood of the film.

Paul Attanasio's screenplay based on Pistone's book "Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia" is pretty good, but one can't help but think that it certainly leaves a little to be desired.

Mike Newell directs well and pulls off a genre he had never attempted, pretty successfully.

"Donnie Brasco" is a fine film which succeeds more as a character drama than as a gangster flick. Absolutely "fuh-get about it"! ;)
Eric S

Super Reviewer

June 25, 2010
Quite a good gangster film based on a true story. It follows FBI agent Joe D. Pistone(Johnny Depp) as he infiltrates the mafia in 1978 New York City. Pistone goes undercover using the name Donnie Brasco, and befriends a "made" mafioso named Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero(Al Pacino) who collects money for the "bosses". Due to the friendship which develops between Lefty and Pistone who he first becomes involved with as they "collect" money, Pistone develops concern for his mafia friends, particularly Lefty who he believes will take the fall if he walks away. The new boss Sonny Black well portrayed by Michael Madsen is fed up with Lefty, and turns to Brasco to clean up the mess.
Depp's performance is yet another exceptional piece of character work by one of our finest actors. Pacino turns in a respectful performance as well as the vulnerable mafioso who is a bit out of his element that he believes to be very much his own.

Super Reviewer

March 11, 2008
The true soul of the New York mob is portrayed in Donnie Brasco, a first-class Mafia thriller that is also in its way a love story
Al S

Super Reviewer

October 11, 2006
A stylish, intriguing, honest and remarkable gangster picture. A classic. A riveting crime drama. It's brilliant, stunning and sizzeling. Knockout performances. Al Pacino and Johnny Depp are teriffic. Pacino proves once again why he's one of the greatest that ever lived. Depp gives one of the best performances of his career. The two dynamite stars show outstanding chemistry together. Micheal Madsen is brilliant. Director, Mike Newell has crafted a well established and brilliant film. It's the most insightful, hard-hitting, hard-edged and honest gangster movie since Goodfellas.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

September 16, 2009
A good gangster film but it's a little overrated. Pacino and Depp aren't really at their best but overall, this is a very entertaining film with a good supporting cast.

Super Reviewer

October 30, 2008
"Donnie Brasco. Based On A True Story."

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.

It is important to remember that in probably every gangster film, from the Public Enemy to Goodfellas, the anti-heroes are hugely likable characters who we easily gain empathy more. Al Pacino as Lefty is so convincing as an ignored foot soldier and world weary gangster, it is easy to see why Joe/Donnie likes him so much. It continually amazes me that in the 90's, Pacino just by the gestures, postures and voices he employed in his characterisations seemed to jump between ages. As Frank Slade he seemed like a washed up blind man, who to get out of bed was a strain, whilst in the same year, as Carlito he seemed twenty years younger.

Donnie Brasco is another fine example of this. At times he seems as old as your grandad but always somehow manages to mix menace with pathos and humour. Donnie Brasco - the last great gangster movie. It not as magnificent as the Godfather or as epic as Casino, but in its portrayal of the insidous nature of the 'life' on even straight shooters like Depp it is unrivaled.
Alice S

Super Reviewer

December 14, 2008
Very gripping in that the film paints a sympathetic villain. Lefty is the gangster Willy Loman.
Chris G

Super Reviewer

March 8, 2008
Donnie Brasco is a decent mob drama starring Johnny Depp as an FBI undercover agent and Al Pacino as the two bit mobster that brings him into the inner circle. The film is your typical mob film with the undercover gent being paranoid about getting caught and the effect it has on his family- you've seen this part before. The only real standout in the film is Al Pacino's character Lefty. Instead of Pacino playing the mob boss, he plays a pathetic stooge who works for what amounts another stooge played by Michael Madsen. These guys are like the minimum wage earners of the New York mafia,. Yeah they drive Cadillacs and Lincolns, but Al Pacino is NOT playing Michael Corleone or Tony Montana in this one. Think of him as a stooge for Luca Brazzi. I found this unpolished version of Pacino's chacter's life in the Mafia to be more interesting than Depp's Pistone family crisis (which is oddly interpreted on screen).
Overall, this is an OK film that shows off the skills of the veteran Pacino and the soon-to-become-superstar Depp.
Tim S

Super Reviewer

July 19, 2007
Pacino is the movie, but I can't buy Depp as a real person.

Super Reviewer

September 24, 2007
Great depiction of mob life and loyalty. Al Pacino was amazing.
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