I finally added this to my library after finding it for $9.99 at a local supermarket; for this price, you really cant go wrong with Donnie Brasco.

Along the lines of Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas, Donnie Brasco tells the story of a real-life FBI agent, Joseph D. Pistone (played by Johnny Depp in the film) who goes undercover to expose an organized crime family in New York, befriending and eventually ratting out his protege, Lefty Ruggiero (played by Al Pacino) in a style somewhat similar to what Henry Hill did in the Goodfellas story. Not one of the best mob films ever made, Donnie Brasco is slick entertainment with some fast-talking dialogue and cheesy disco score because of the year it is set in; Depp and Pacino fans wont find much to cheer for here because this is definitely not one of Pacino's best roles, playing the rather weak, aging and undermined hitman "Lefty" who works for his boss played by Michael Madsen, and its not really Depp's best performance either as Joe Pistone. But onscreen, the two seem to develop a dialogue-rich bond that keeps us entertained.

Donnie Brasco starts off with Pistone (Depp) pretending to be a jewel scam expert in Pacino's neighborhood, and once the two quickly become friends, Pacino invites Depp into his mob family --- this was based on actual real events Joe Pistone went through in the FBI. As the film proceeds, Pacino trusts Depp more and more until the point that he promises Depp he will "open the books" for him one day (which is street lingo for becoming a "made man" in the mafia --- no one can mess with you anymore).....the problem is, with every meeting Depp has with Pacino, he is secretly recording the conversations because he is undercover and trying to bust Pacino and his entire crime family for multiple violations. At one point in the film, probably the most exciting, Depp is wearing a minicassette recorder in his boots when him and the mob guys walk into a Japanese restaurant where the manager demands they remove their shoes.....when Depp cant take his shoes off, he is threatened by mob boss Madsen but convinces Madsen that he must leave his shoes on, so after refusal of service by the manager of the restaurant, these guys take this Oriental guy into the bathroom and beat the living **** out of him ---- all because they "respected" Donnie Brasco (Depp) and his defiance not to take his shoes off. But as the film progresses, Depp's character feels more and more guilty about the people getting hurt around him and his involvement in these crimes and beatings and such; it even puts his marriage on the rocks with a rather sexy-looking Anne Heche, who need to go to marriage counceling because of Depp's undercover FBI work on the Donnie Brasco case.

There is another point when Madsen, Pacino and their crew kill a rival mob crew for setting them up in a police raid when Madsen's guys tried to open a bar down in Florida; Depp is called in to assist with cutting up the dead bodies of these rival gang members and you can see how distasteful this part of the job is for Pistone (Depp) as he cuts a guy's legs off with a saw.....

In the end, Pacino thinks he smells a rat in Depp and threatens him that if he IS an undercover cop, Pacino is going to be the one to be killed first because he let "Donnie" into the family; when an attempted murder by Pacino and Depp gets interrupted by the FBI who pull Depp out of the case before he gets in too deep, the FBI pay a visit to Madsen and Pacino and their men to show them pictures of the REAL Donnie Brasco --- who, of course, was an FBI agent named Joe Pistone. The film nearly ends with the audience lead to believe Pacino's character was killed because of letting Depp's character infiltrate their lair.

Like I said, the acting is not on par with neither Al Pacino nor Johnny Depp's best in Donnie Brasco, but as far as fact-based stories go, this is one of the best because it holds so close to the real story, even using REAL names. These things really DID take place between the real "Lefty" Ruggiero and the real Joe Pistone, and the film portrays the befriending and ultimate betrayal of these two men rather nicely. There are some ludicrous moments when there is some bad dancing to some bad music, including a scene in a Florida nightclub the guys open called KINGS COURT where the Traamps' DISCO INFERNO is playing and these guys are just dancing like complete idiots with some hot chicks; there is also a memorable part when Pacino's character demands that Depp's character rent a yacht for a day to impress a big mob boss of another family......once Depp gets the okay from the FBI for the boat, onboard we get some nice close up shots of some really nice naked breasts of hot chicks just dancing topless on the boat with nothing but bikini bottoms on......very nice.

Donnie Brasco is by no means a classic mob/gangster picture, nor does it even approach the status and slickness of classics like Goodfellas, The Godfather or Casino. And dont go in thinking this is a typical Pacino or Depp layout in terms of their acting because it isnt.....I just have had this particular title on my want list for awhile now and just got around to picking it up rather cheap.

Being this was a SPECIAL EDITION from Columbia, Donnie Brasco was sprinkled with some serious extra content dealing with the real Joe Pistone story, but the technicals of the disc itself left a bit to be desired, specifically in the audio department.....let me explain.....


This was hit and miss; the very beginning of Donnie Brasco seemed to be just a tad bit dirty --- not distracting at all, but something was there that made the image not completely transparent looking or smooth; as the presentation went on, however, colors got better and this became an average to above average transfer. Really nothing to complain or boast about; a typical middle of the road effort from Columbia/Tri Star, as they did on most of their other discs like In The Line of Fire, A Few Good Men, Bad Boys, etc.


Now, what is the POINT of this? A "5.0" track? In DOLBY DIGITAL no less? I NEVER understood this about Columbia's decision to put such a mix on Donnie Brasco's Special Edition, but there you have it folks.....NO LFE channel whatsoever on this mix, for whatever stupid reason, and it was confirmed by my DVD player, showing up as only five channels running, not five point one.....the audio, at any rate, is nothing to shake a stick at anyway on this disc. Dialogue is low, requiring you to crank up your processor's master volume once again to really get some heated sounds from your center channel, plus the entire overall volume of the mix is on the lower side to make matters worse. Although, some scenes DO open up, such as when Madsen and Pacino open the nightclub/bar in Florida, and the song Disco Inferno is blasting through your speakers ---- but this will only be through your stereo speakers and without much bass because of the 5.0 track, although the midbass in your mains will do a good job with this scene.

Let's talk surround usage.....there really isnt any. This is a front-focused 5.0 mix that at maybe two or three times uses the rears slightly for some sort of ambience that I was able to detect, or for perhaps some score support. Gunshots sound nice though if you have your system up high enough (which you will need to, believe me, if you buy or rent this disc because the recording level was low) where they really rock, thump and blast through the center channel, leaving some echo in the rears.....VERY little echo though.

The main problem on Donnie Brasco's audio track (aside from the ridiculous decision to make this a 5.0 mix) is the overall power level of the dialogue stem ---- I was able to hear WAY too many distractions in my listening room over the dialogue scenes in the film, and this was with my receiver cranked WAY up. Sometimes you will have a hard time making out what Pacino or Depp are saying if you are noy in absolute silence in your listening room. Why couldnt Columbia just pump the audio levels up a bit more here? Perhaps it was because they had to jam an anamorphic video transfer and a **** load of extras on the same single disc, which included:

-Director's Commentary
-Exclusive Featurette: "Donnie Brasco: Out From The Shadows"
-Original Featurette
-Deleted Scenes
-Isolated Music Score
-Theatrical Trailers
-Talent Files
-Interactive Menus
-Production Notes
-Scene Selections (ummmmm......okay)