One of the great travesties in Academy Award history is the fact that Martin Scorsese, arguably one of the greatest directors of our generation, has never received an award for best director.
That may be amended this year with Scorsese's latest, “The Departed,” an absolutely intense remake of a popular Hong Kong crime drama, “Internal Affairs.” The 64-year-old director returns to material suited to his strengths, perhaps his best film since “Casino” and “Goodfellas.”
Leonardo DiCaprio heads an incredibly strong and talented cast, playing Billy Costigan, a young Boston police officer who agrees to go deep undercover to infiltrate an Irish-American gang led by the notorious Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson).
While Costigan tries to bring Costello to justice, the crime lord is aided by Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a young police officer who grew up in the neighborhood, is extremely loyal to Costello and now serves as mole in the police department.
DiCaprio does a nice job of capturing the paranoia of his character, and Nicholson is delightful as the crime boss - even if it feels like he is rehashing his turn as Joker in “Batman.”
Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Vera Farmiga also have nice supporting roles, but Damon is clearly the star of this cast. Playing off his pretty-boy persona, Damon delivers the best performance of his career, creating a character that is a snake, but is clearly conflicted by his actions. He deserves strong consideration for best supporting actor.
“The Departed” is a complex film, with a plot full of deceptions and double-crosses, but the material is in the good hands with Scorsese, who delivers a tense and very un-P.C. film that is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. This is among the very best films of 2006.
DVD dandy of the week
This week's dandy is “American Dreamz” (B-), an all-over-the-map satire of “American Idol” where there are enough positives to outweigh the negatives.
Hugh Grant stars as Martin Tweed, a Simon Cowell-type producer of a wildly popular reality show. As “Dreamz” begins, Tweed is working on assembling the competition for the latest season, which includes a lower-class young lady named Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore) who is determined to make it, and a showtune-loving member of a Middle Eastern terrorist cell named Omer (Sam Golzari).
Tweed scores a major coup when the nation's dimwitted president (Dennis Quaid) is recruited to be a guest judge for the season finale in order to help boost his sagging approval ratings.
The “Dreamz” cast helps make the film breezy and entertaining. Grant is his usual reliable self, while Moore continues to take chances as an actress and continues to cement her rather solid resume.
Golzari is good as well, and there are other nice supporting performances from Chris Klein as Kendoo's boyfriend and Tony Yalda as Omer's relative, living his American dream through the young singer.
Weitz has shown a sharp eye and pen in films like “About a Boy” and the original “American Pie,” and when “Dreamz” focuses on the television show, the film is at its best.
Unfortunately, the subplots involving the president (clearly aimed at satirizing George W. Bush) just don't work on the same level. Still, Weitz manages to pull it all together with a final act that is as morbid as it is funny.
“American Dreamz” is by no means a perfect film, but it manages to hit just enough right notes to make it more enjoyable than a William Hung greatest hits CD.
“American Dreamz” is rated PG-13 for brief strong language and some sexual references and is available Tuesday on DVD.