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Donnie Brasco (1997)

7.8
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 191,755 users   Metascore: 76/100
Reviews: 223 user | 112 critic | 21 from Metacritic.com

An FBI undercover agent infilitrates the mob and finds himself identifying more with the mafia life to the expense of his regular one.

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Title: Donnie Brasco (1997)

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 9 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

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Walt MacPherson ...
Ronnie Farer ...
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Storyline

This true story follows FBI agent Joe Pistone as he infiltrates the mafia of New York. Befriending Lefty Ruggiero, Pistone (under the name Donnie Brasco) is able to embed himself in a mafia faction lead by Sonny Black. Ruggiero and Pistone become tight as the group goes about collecting money for 'the bosses'. Eventually, the group become big time when Black himself becomes a boss, all the while Pistone collects evidence. However, the trials and tribulations of the undercover work become more than Pistone can bear. His marriage falls apart and to top it off, the mafia suspect a mole in the organization. The real dilemma is afforded to Pistone, who knows if he walks away from the mafia, Ruggiero will be the one punished. Written by P. Wong <pwong@nt.net>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

mafia | fbi | undercover | fbi agent | mole | See more »

Taglines:

In 1978, the US government waged a war against organized crime. One man was left behind the lines. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some strong graphic violence, pervasive strong language and brief nudity and sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
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Details

Country:

Language:

| |

Release Date:

28 February 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Brasco  »

Box Office

Budget:

$35,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$11,660,216 (USA) (28 February 1997)

Gross:

$41,954,997 (USA) (13 June 1997)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

| (extended cut)

Sound Mix:

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Color:

(Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Joe Pesci was 'Mike Newell (I)'s first choice for Nicky. See more »

Goofs

Al Pacino's character is nicknamed "Lefty," which generally means a person is left-handed. Towards the very end of the film, "Lefty" uses his right hand in a way that only a right-handed person would. See more »

Quotes

Maggie Pistone: God, why do you hate me when I love you so much?
Donnie Brasco: You think I hate you? I don't hate you. This job is eating me alive. I can't breathe anymore. And if I come out, this guy Lefty dies. They're gonna kill him because he vouched for me. Because he stood up for me. I live with that every day. That's the same thing if I put the bullet through his head myself, you understand? I spend all these years trying to be the good guy, you know? The man in the white fuckin' hat. For what? For nuthin'. I'm not ...
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The Cinema Snob Movie (2012) See more »

Soundtracks

Dance with Me
(1977)
Written by Peter H. Brown (as Peter Brown) and Robert Rans
Performed by Peter H. Brown (as Peter Brown)
Courtesy of Rhino Records
By Arrangement with Warner Special Products
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A good gangster film with strong emotional under currents
2 May 2004 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

In the late 1970's, FBI agent Joe Pistone poses as jewel expert Donnie Brasco to win the trust of ageing mob middleman Lefty Ruggiero. As time passes Donnie gets tighter and tighter into the mob, rising up when boss Sonny Black gets bumped up. While Donnie puts his life at risk, his real life crumbles as he never sees his wife or children. As he moves upwards, his friend Lefty is bypassed time and time again. As Donnie gets deeper, the FBI start to worry and want to extract him - something that cannot be done without exposing himself and condemning Lefty to death.

Now that Pirates of the Caribean has made him a bankable star as well as a good actor I decided to dig out some of my old Depp videos and watch them. I have been a Depp fan since the mid-90's when I saw Arizona Dream, Ed Wood and Don Juan all in a period of 6 months -I realised then that this was not only a very talented guy but also one who seemed happy to do whatever interested him rather than whatever was going to make money. This film is in a well known and fairly reliable genre - the Italian American gangster movie but has the strength that it is an engaging true story. The plot follows Joe as he gets in deeper, is suspected, gets involved in battles between bosses and eventually starts to lose himself and forget what side he is actually on. Even though this is a true story, it still basically goes where we expect mob films to go, but it manages to rise above the clichés by having some very good characters and emotional themes.

The whole gangster thing works and is gripping, but it is the relationship dynamics between Joe and Lefty that made it more interesting. The element of going `native' when undercover has been done plenty of times, but it is the combination of this being fact and Depp's great performance that makes it work well here; we feel for Joe a great deal. On the flipside the film also allows us to feel for the mob, or at least one of them. The majority of the mobsters are the usual stereotypes but Lefty is written with a great deal of sympathy - he is a middleman, taking the risks, doing the dirt but always passed over and having to beg money to keep his bosses happy. These are tragic characters and the film is not the slightly glamorous gangster lifestyle that Pacino has experienced in his Godfather roles. These two characters are well written and it is their subplots that makes the film better than the central plot (which itself is also very good).

Depp is good and his performance is solid even if it doesn't really rank up their with his best - he lacks his usual flair but he gives the material it's dues. Pacino is of course, wonderful. His character is a far cry from his Godfather work and he manages to bring such pathos to Lefty that it is impossible not to feel for him. The support cast may not have as much in the way of character but they all do well in their roles. Madsen, Kirby, Ivanek, Heche, Miano and others all give good support, but it is Pacino and Depp's film - which is a good thing.

Overall, the fact that this is a true story makes it more interesting but, while I was watching it I wasn't really thinking about it and was just enjoying the gangster film itself. The basic story is a well worn one but is still delivery well by Newell (who was a very unusual choice for director), but it is the emotion threads involving Joe and Lefty that make the film much more than just another gangster film.


102 of 118 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Why go to your death? ladydesdemonna
anyone else wish the movie ended with lefty closing the door? devilsplaythang
Pacino or Depp? sobol4ever-1
Why the hell did the FBI agent show Donnie's FBI photos to the mob? brobb-3
Was Lefty going to kill Donnie.... jonesmorrell
in the begining of the movie,,, just wondering ransid86
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