Donnie Brasco (1997): A Gripping Tale of Undercover Intrigue in the Mafia


During the 1990s, film adaptations of mafia films flourished. After the brilliant Scorsese masterpiece Casino, one got the impression that there is nothing more to say about the topic, but it still serves as an inspiration to Hollywood producers.

Donnie Brasco (1997): A Gripping Tale of Undercover Intrigue in the Mafia

This project, which is based on a true story, gathered a great cast and was directed by Mike Newell, a Briton who is the author of the cult comedy Four Weddings and a Funeral.


The film is set in the late 1980s, in a New York suburb. Donnie Brasco, a young jeweler, comes to a mafia cafe, where he is spotted by Lefty Ruggiero, a monster in his twenties who wants Donnie to become part of the mafia team led by Sonny Black. Donnie is undercover undercover agent Joe Pistone, who enters the mob to expose her. Over time, his double role subsides, as he becomes friends with mobsters and an important factor in their organization, while on the other hand he has problems in the family due to his absence.

Direction and Screenplay:

Newell’s choice of director is attributed to the fact that the foreigner objectively has the best view of the facts and events that influenced the making of the film. The screenplay was written by Paul Attanasio, the man behind the series Homicide-Life on the Street, and he perfectly adapted the book by the real Joe Pistone.

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He represents the mafia without Hollywood embellishment and glorification, focused exclusively on objectivity and truth, so that no one, not even the head of the mafia, is presented as a jack with limousines and numerous women, but as a man who fights for every opportunity and chance for money.


Most of the gang is presented as a group of ragged losers who are slightly different from poor, honest people. The direction is excellent and it is adorned with excellent photography, but the excellent image of the film is partially spoiled by the relatively slow rhythm, as well as the ending, which is not effective enough.The role of the elderly Left was played by the maestro Al Pacino, who specialized in the roles of gangsters.

His pain due to the feeling of old age and uselessness, as well as due to the fact that his son is a failed drug addict, was brilliantly shown. Johnny Depp performs the role of Donnie very well, with a great dose of charisma and culotte that is characteristic of him.

His under-characterized wife is played by Anne Heche, while the gangster leader is Michael Madsen, a specialist in the roles of neurotics and fierce guys.When everything is added and subtracted, “Donnie Brasco” does not differ much from the average gangster movies, but again it leaves the impression of specificity and originality.

A great script with a solid direction and top actors brings good entertainment, especially for fans of the crime genre and films based on a true story.