Donnie Brasco features Al Pacino as a Willy Loman-esque sad sack
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Every day, Watch This offers staff recommendations inspired by a new movie coming out that week. This week: Snitch has us thinking about other movies featuring snitches.
Donnie Brasco (1997)
The underrated and eclectic 1997 crime melodrama Donnie Brasco, written by Paul Attanasio (Quiz Show) and directed by Mike Newell, posits the life and perpetually non-starting career of a low-level career criminal played by Al Pacino as an extended study in sour desperation. Pacino plays his aging criminal as the crime-world equivalent of Willy Loman, a sad-sack small timer whose outsized legend exists only in his own over-active imagination.
Based on a true story, Donnie Brasco casts a pitch-perfect Johnny Depp as a young FBI agent who goes undercover as a Florida jewel thief and befriends Pacino, a frustrated hitman who works for hot-headed and equally disappointed boss Michael Madsen. Pacino takes Depp under his wing as a protégé and surrogate son, and Depp increasingly finds himself torn between his sense of duty and his loyalty to Pacino. Donnie Brasco invests the enduring, resonant themes of the undercover-cop movie with grubby verisimilitude and a keenly observed sense of time and place. The haunting character study’s unblinking, unsentimental depiction of organized crime as the sorrowful domain of small-timers and no-hopers stands as a necessary and bracing antidote to the pantheon of great mob movies—some of the best of which star Al Pacino—that depict life inside the mob as a world filled with glamour and excitement.
Availability: Available for digital rental, on DVD special edition, and in an extended-cut Blu-ray.