In director Martin Scorsese's version of the 2002 Hong Kong thriller, "Infernal Affairs," Leonardo DiCaprio plays Billy Costigan, a Boston police officer undercover in the Irish-American mafia. Matt Damon is Colin Sullivan, a mafia man covertly working as a cop, and Jack Nicholson is Frank Costello, the mob's head honcho. Eventually, each mole works to nab the other without being ratted out himself. With Martin Sheen, Mark Wahlberg and Alec Baldwin.
Big question: Can Scorsese justify re-doing an already-solid film that's only a few years old?
Catch it: Every actor is firing on all cylinders: Damon has never been more appealing and conniving, DiCaprio has never been tougher or more layered and Nicholson dazzles as a grinning, snarling Cheshire cat ready to pounce on anyone who looks at him funny. The difference between cop and criminal dissolves in a swarm of surveillance and deception, and Scorsese presides over the whole operation like he's the only one in the world who knows where illusion ends and identity begins.
Skip it: If you only want to see criminals making war, not love. (A therapist played by Vera Farmiga gets involved with both Costigan and Sullivan because, hey, moles need lovin', too.)
Bottom line: The more complex thematic elements of "Infernal Affairs" needed tightening, and "The Departed" seizes them, squeezes them, and juices them for every last ounce of energy and emotion. One moment, the movie is so cool it might freeze; the next instant, it's so scorching that the screen threatens to go up in flames.
Bonus: Costello insists, "You learn a lot watching things eat." Now you can claim that you watch "Competitive Eating Championship" because it's educational programming!
Matt Pais is the metromix movies producer.
Directed by Martin Scorsese; screenplay by William Monahan, based on the film "Infernal Affairs"; cinematography by Michael Ballhaus; edited by Thelma Schoonmaker; production design by Kristi Zea; music by Howard Shore; produced by Brad Pitt, Brad Grey and Graham King. A Warner Bros. Pictures release; opens Friday. Running time: 2:31. MPAA rating: R (for strong brutal violence, pervasive language, some strong sexual content and drug material).
Billy - Leonardo DiCaprio
Colin - Matt Damon
Costello - Jack Nicholson
Dignam - Mark Wahlberg
Queenan - Martin Sheen
French - Ray Winstone
Madolyn - Vera Farminga
Ellerby - Alec BaldwinCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times