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The Departed (2006)

The Departed (2006) is about the conflict between Boston mobsters and Massachusetts state troopers. It features Leonardo DeCaprio and Matt Damon as undercover agents. Both are recent graduates of the Police Academy, but DeCaprio, as Billy Costigan, is a genuine policeman while Damon, as Colin Sullivan, is a protegé of mobster Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) who has groomed him from childhood to become a police mole for the mob.

Both Billy and Colin speak with a working class Boston accent and, like most of the men in the film, have fairly limited vocabularies, relying heavily on the "f" word and slurs against women. The accents are entertaining. The film is not.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences obviously had a different opinion, awarding the film Oscars for Best Director, Best Achievement in Editing, Best Motion Picture of the Year, and Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay.

Mark Wahlberg received a nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role for his portrayal of the most foul-mouthed character of the lot, Dingham, assistant to the director of undercover police operations Queenan (Martin Sheen).

Although the film is star-studded, the best acting is by Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin, and DeCaprio in that they create characters who are believable human beings. Sheen is a kindly family man doing his best to fulfill his duties as a policeman engaged in dangerous work. DeCaprio is believably screwed up, decent, and frightened by the job he is trying to do. Baldwin is more thick-skinned than Queenan, but like him, he's an honest cop trying to get the job done. He's ecstatic about the Patriot Act which allows him to tap in legally on criminal conversations.

Nicholson's performance as the crazy, scene-chewing mob boss would be more at home in a movie based on a comic strip.

Wahlberg as Dingham is little more than a shouting toilet-mouth.

The only women of any significance in the film are Vera Farmiga as Colin's girlfriend Madolyn, and Kristen Dalton as Costello's wife Gwen. Madolyn provides a plot link between the two moles, while Gwen seems to be included in an effort to suggest that as depraved and vile a human being as he is, Costello is lovable to his wife.

Many of the reviews of this film call it "entertaining." I can't say that I find unremitting human depravity entertaining. If The Departed provides a true picture of what working class life is like in South Boston, I can only wonder why the national government doesn't send troops there instead of wasting American resources in efforts to clean up foreign corruption.

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