Donnie Brasco – DVD Review

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Mike Newell


Al Pacino ………. Benjamin “Lefty” Ruggiero
Johnny Depp ………. Donnie Brasco/Joseph D. “Joe” Pistone
Michael Madsen ………. Sonny Black
Bruno Kirby ………. Nicky
James Russo ………. Paulie
Anne Heche ………. Maggie Pistone
Zeljko Ivanek ………. Tim Curley
Gerry Becker ………. Dean Blandford
Robert Miano ………. Sonny Red

The Movie

The undisputed king of all Mafia movies is The Godfather. Probably a close second to that film is Goodfellas. Those two movies are so highly regarded in the “Mafia movie” genre that other great movies in the same genre usually get forgotten. Before Johnny Depp was a pirate and before Al Pacino was the devil, they got together to do their own Mafia movie. One based on a true story that many people have forgotten about in the world of great Mafia movies.

Donnie Brasco follows FBI agent Joe Pistone (Johnny Depp) as he infiltrates the mafia of New York. Befriending Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino), Pistone (under the name Donnie Brasco) is able to embed himself in a mafia faction lead by Sonny Black (Michael Madsen). Ruggiero and Pistone become tight as the group goes about collecting money for “the bosses”. Eventually, the group becomes 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.

Johnny Depp is no doubt the star of this movie. He is one actor that really studies a character, especially if that character is a real person. Depp is on top of his game here. Today it’s hard to imagine Depp as anything but a pirate. In this film, though, it’s actually hard to believe that’s really Johnny Depp acting on the screen. He’s totally in character. Al Pacino, on the other hand, is Al Pacino. Yet that’s why he love him. This is the kind of character he was born to play. The supporting cast, mainly Michael Madsen and Anne Heche, do fantastic jobs in their roles as well. This is really a top-notch cast, which helps raise this movie to another level.

The story is fantastic as well. It’s a true story, which is always a good thing. Here it actually seems more true to what happened in real life than the “Hollywood version” that we have seen many times before. The emotion in this movie seems real and not forced at all. You can actually believe what happens on the screen.

This special extended cut claims to have 20 minutes of footage that wasn’t in the original film. To be honest, I didn’t notice any of the extra footage, but it doesn’t really matter as anything they added to the movie could only help the movie further to provide depth.

Emotion is the key word for this movie. There is great emotion in this film. It also gives an unique twist to the Mafia theme movie. We go inside the Mob world from the eyes of the “little man”. Not the big Mob boss, but the guy that works for the guy that works for the Mob Boss. That is just as interesting, if not more than looking at things from the top of the Mafia food chain.

Donnie Brasco often gets overlooked as a top Mafia movie. There is no valid reason for that. It should be in the same conversation as The Godfather and Goodfellas. It’s not a “classic” like those two, but that’s only because Donnie Brasco is only 10 years old. In time, movie fans will hopefully remember this movie as one of the best Mafia movies around with great acting from Johnny Depp and Al Pacino.

The Video:

The video is in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen color, which is enhanced for 16:9 TVs. The video has been improved for this special edition DVD. How much exactly is up to each individual’s eye, but you can tell that the movie was “cleaned up” for this release. About as good as you are going to get for a movie 10 years old.

The Audio:

The audio included is available in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround sound. There are subtitles available in English and French as well. No problems real problems here either. The music and dialogue comes out loud and clear as the audio has also been “improved” for this special edition DVD.

The Extras:

“Donnie Brasco: Out From the Shadows” Featurette
This new featurette expands on interviews with the cast and crew about the film from the original featurette and throws in some new interviews as well. This is the only new special feature to this movie. It’s pretty good, but there could have been more stuff added to this “special edition” version. Still this featurette is pretty interesting.

Original Featurette
This is the original featurette from the original DVD release. It’s like a long movie trailer with the “movie guy” narrating parts of it. That seemed out of place, but it’s interesting to view this featurette and then see the new featurette.

Photo Gallery
This is more like a montage of pictures from the movie as they “slide” across your screen set to dialogue from the movie. A lot better way to present photos than having you click one after another. They do all the work for you.

Theatrical Trailers
I don’t consider these “extras”, but there is nothing else here so here you go. You get trailers for Rocky Balboa, Casino Royale, and Ghost Rider.


This special edition DVD of Donnie Brasco is not loaded with many more special features. There is one good new one, but that’s about it. But you did get improved sound and picture for a “classic” film in the making. Is that enough for you to go out and get this DVD, if you already have the original DVD? That’s up to you to decide. But if you don’t have this DVD and haven’t seen this movie, I would not hesitate to recommend buying this version. Whether you liked The Godfather or not, you still should watch this movie as it provides an unique twist on the Mafia movie.

The DVD Lounge’s Ratings for Donnie Brasco
(OUT OF 10)






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