The Departed (18) <!-- none onestar twostar threestar fourstar fivestar -->

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The Independent Culture

Martin Scorsese's remake of the brilliant Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs is scaled down from his grandiose recent work (Gangs of New York, The Aviator) but still falls well short of his landmark movies of the 1970s and 1980s. Switched from the original's Hong Kong setting to working-class Boston, its plot replays the twinned fates of two rookies on either side of the law. Young cadet William Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) infiltrates the local Irish mob run by violent capo Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), while Costigan's academy peer Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a rising star of the force, is secretly leaking information to Costello. A lethal game of spy versus spy is played out, punctuated on both sides by sudden horrific beatings and maimings - by the end it's almost Jacobean in its bloodiness. On the plus side, Nicholson is on good-to-great form as the paternal brute, and lends an inimitable relish to certain lines in William Monahan's screenplay. "She's on her way out," says one thug of his mother. "We all are. Act accordingly," drawls Frank. Alec Baldwin, as a senior officer, also impresses with his careless machismo. But if violence is one thing Scorsese has not forgotten how to do, he seems unable to summon the authority and verve of old; more often than not The Departed looks like a movie any of his legion of imitators could have made. This has its moments - what Scorsese film does not? - but over a two-and-a-half-hour stretch it huffs and puffs and still doesn't blow the house down.

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