7.8/10
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Donnie Brasco (1997)

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

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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Tim Curley (as Zeljko Ivanek)
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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 led 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 | money | racial slur | singer | See All (182) »

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Biography | Crime | Drama

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:

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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)
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Company Credits

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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

Al Pacino picked his sunglasses out himself. Mike Newell said that he has a great eye for costume. See more »

Goofs

When Brasco tries to call his wife, and discovers that the number has been disconnected, he dials area code 212, which is Manhattan. Pistone lives in Clifton, New Jersey; at the time, the area code was 201. See more »

Quotes

Lefty: [sees the front page of a newspaper, to Donnie's while in his car] Whackin' the boss... another thing I get left out of.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Person of Interest: The Perfect Mark (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Deep Purple
(1933)
Written by Mitchell Parish and Peter De Rose
Performed by Vic Damone
Courtesy of Columbia Records
By Arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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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.


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