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Donnie Brasco 
Reviewed By: Rachel Hughes
Genre: Drama
Video Format: Anamorphic 1.85:1 Widescreen
Audio Format: Dolby Digital 5.0, 2.0
Language Tracks: English, French, Spanish
Subtitle Tracks: English, French Spanish
Length: 2hrs 7mins
Rating R
Release Date: November 7, 2000
Regular/Special Edition Regular
Region Code: 1
Studio: Columbia-TriStar
  THX: No
Commentary Yes with director Mike Newell
Documentaries None
Featurettes Yes, Donnie Brasco - Out of the Shadows and an Original Featurette
Filmography & Biography Yes for all principle actors
Interviews None
Trailers & TV Spots Yes, Donnie Brasco, The Devils Own, The Professional, and The Juror
Alternate/Deleted Scenes & Clips Yes, five
Music Video(s) None
Other Production Notes and Moving Photo Gallery
Cast & Crew
Cast  Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen, Bruno Kirby, James Russo and Anne Heche
Written by Based on the book by Joseph D. Pistone with Richard Woodley screenplay by Paul Attanasio
Produced By Mark Johnson, Barry Levinson, Louis DiGiamo and Gail Mutrux
Directed By Mike Newell
Score By Patrick Doyle
The Review:
The Godfather, Goodfellas, and now Donnie Brasco. While hundred of gangster films have been made, few have measured up to the standards of The Godfather. Mike Newell, however, has made a tense, moving picture that comes close. Donnie Brasco is the story of FBI Agent Joseph D. Pistone (Johnny Depp). He went undercover for what was supposed to be a few months and wound up in the Mafia for over six years. He befriended and was sponsored by an aging low-level made man, Lefty (Al Pacino). Upon learning who the director was, Mike Newell, there is a bit of skepticism. This British director is largely known to American audiences for directing Four Weddings and A Funeral. Happily, he has done an incredible job. It also helps that he assembled a truly incredible cast. Johnny Depp shows just how far he has come from his days on 21 Jump Street. If you have ever written him off as a pretty boy actor, this film will convince you otherwise. Al Pacino is amazing in any role you place him in. In this movie though, he seems to have become Lefty. While Donnie Brasco is a compelling gangster movie, it does not follow many of the gangster movie traditions. There is very little violence in this movie, and what is used adds to the mood and feel of the film. This movie is not about the top leaders. No one is living a posh lifestyle driving huge cars or living in glorious mansions. Lefty and his associates are on the bottom rung of the made-men. You also feel sorry for the bad guy, Lefty. He is, after all, a hired killer who brags about his 26 hits. But at the same time you empathize with him. Here is a man in his forties who works hard, follows all the rules, never questions his orders, and has absolutely nothing to show for it. While we may have different jobs, the question of where did I go wrong is universal. 
Image & Sound:
The transfer is not perfect. There are a few blips on the screen, but they do not detract from the viewing of the film. The colors all come through remarkably well. Since it is in the 1970s there are some wild clothing and colors. The only drawback is the coat that Lefty wears is an odd checkered pattern that gets the weird swirled color patterns. The sound is presented in two formats. There is the Dolby Digital 5.0 mix and the 2.0. Since the movie is dialogue-driven, there is not a huge difference between the two. The 5.0 makes better use of the voices by centering them and then having background noises come from the surrounds. The musical score by Patrick Doyle, who also did Henry V, is sparse, but extremely effective. The rest of the movie music features songs from 1970s. 
Extra Features:
There are not many extras on the disc, but they are of outstanding quality. The best is Donnie Brasco - Out of the Shadows. This features interviews with the writer, director and Joe Pistone. It is always interesting to here what the subject of a movie thinks about how things turned out. Turns out that Pistone was as impressed with Depp as I was. There are also five deleted scenes available with or without commentary. Newell does a great job explaining why the scene was shot in the first place, and then why it was removed. The Original Featurette runs for seven and a half minutes and is the standard extended trailer we see on most DVDs that boast of an "Original featurette." The DVD has an interesting treatment of the photo gallery. There are pictures from both the movie and behind the scenes, but instead of flipping through them, they are woven together with the score and pieces of the dialogue from the movie. There is a filmography for the major actors. It lists their birth date, the films they have appeared in, and any awards or nominations they have received. Finally there are trailers for Donnie Brasco, The Devils Own, The Professional, and The Juror.
Commentary Track:
Mike Newell delivers an outstanding commentary along with an outstanding movie. His comments last through the entire film, and are screen-specific. He tells wonderful stories about the cast members, and what it was like to work with them. He also goes into some detail about the steps he went through to make the movie authentic. He hung out with some wise guys in New York. While he does add some of what happened in real life, it would have been nice to have more information on what really happened and what had to be changed.
Finals Words:
This is a great movie. The actors have turned in some of their best performances; the director does a wonderful job. If you thought you wouldn't like the movie because it would be chock-full of violence, it's not. The film is tastefully done, and you truly care about the characters, even the bad ones. If you love gangster films then this DVD is a must to add to your collection. 

Send all Comments to Teakwood Productions
March 27, 2001