TriStar Pictures | Release Date: February 28, 1997
3.2
USER SCORE
Generally unfavorable reviews based on 259 Ratings
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Positive:
94
Mixed:
6
Negative:
159
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8
chwJul 22, 2015
Donnie Brasco is a good film, but based on the user reviews here it is clear that it was a tad late for it's time. Everybody has already seen The Godfather, and every mob movie will forever be cursed by being compared to it and being lessDonnie Brasco is a good film, but based on the user reviews here it is clear that it was a tad late for it's time. Everybody has already seen The Godfather, and every mob movie will forever be cursed by being compared to it and being less appreciated. Expand
0 of 0 users found this helpful00
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7
MovieMasterEddyApr 7, 2016
Mob life receives one of its least glamorous screen portraits in "Donnie Brasco," which concentrates on the human toll of an enormously successful real-life FBI infiltration of the New York Mafia. The psychological dimensions of the storyMob life receives one of its least glamorous screen portraits in "Donnie Brasco," which concentrates on the human toll of an enormously successful real-life FBI infiltration of the New York Mafia. The psychological dimensions of the story remain underrealized, but the loaded central premise and intimate focus the film sustains combine for a very involving and dramatic piece of crime lore that should generate solid late winter biz.

In a substantial step down in the gangland pecking order from his roles in the “Godfather” films and “Scarface,” Al Pacino here plays Lefty Ruggiero, a two-bit wiseguy who, as of the tale’s start in 1978, has worked as a loyal foot soldier for 30 years, has done 26 hits by his count but is basically broke and destined not to ascend any higher in the ranks. Brash as he can be, Lefty is intimidated by his boss, Sonny Red (Robert Miano), and lives such an unrewarding home life with his obedient wife and junkie son that it’s no wonder he prefers to spend most of his time with the boys.

At his barroom hangout, Lefty meets a young man, Donnie Brasco (Johnny Depp), who quickly impresses him with his knowledge of jewels and his tough-guy prowess. Smart and unafraid to stand his ground, Donnie inspires nothing but confidence as the older man shows him the ropes, giving him, as well as the audience, an irresistibly intriguing guided tour of mob life from the inside. Donnie meets Lefty’s guardedly accepting cohorts, who most importantly include the hulking, explosively temperamental Sonny Black (Michael Madsen), the suspicious Paulie (James Russo) and the more voluble Nicky (Bruno Kirby), and is told that, under Lefty’s sponsorship, he could be on the road to one day becoming a Made Guy in the family.

What Lefty never knows, however, is that his streetwise willing student is actually FBI agent Joseph Pistone, who is taping hours of revealing talk and, as he is welcomed further into the mob hierarchy, accumulates mountains of evidence on their illegal activities. The question becomes, how long can Pistone’s successful impersonation last before some slip puts him and the entire operation in jeopardy?

The answer is, far too long for Pistone’s wife Maggie, who is forced to endure long months without seeing her husband and is not even able to ask him what he’s doing on the rare occasions he does return to see her and their three daughters. The strain on the marriage becomes almost unendurable, and one can only conclude that such a job is not one for a family man.

But Donnie’s ties to his new family are, by contrast, growing stronger, as his proposal for an expansion into Miami is met with approval by the quickly rising Sonny Black. But when the New York group’s new club is raided by Miami police, the boys smell a rat. A subsequent struggle between Sonny Black and Sonny Red for dominance in Gotham inevitably leads to a bloodbath, whereupon it’s only a matter of time until the FBI pulls Donnie out and puts the hammer down on the mob.

All this would provide more than enough narrative incident for any movie, but screenwriter Paul Attanasio and director Mike Newell to resist wallowing in the alluring trappings of the gangster genre. Downplaying, although not ignoring, the standard violence, suspense and excitement, the filmmakers keep their attention trained on the growing bond between Lefty and Donnie and the looming betrayal that Donnie knows will doom the man who has taken him under his wing.

So Donnie remains an opaque creation. The film does not give him an interior voice, a door into his feelings, so one cannot engage his point of view or even connect with this intriguing and brave man as much as one would like, despite the outward appeal of Depp’s performance.

By contrast, Pacino unlooses an unchecked stream of visible thought and emotion, beautifully delineating the need his small-time neighborhood thug has for a best friend and surrogate son. Although perhaps familiar in its outer trappings, Pacino’s fine work is the key to the film succeeding to the extent that it does.

Although the supporting actors get across the right attitudes, none of them have roles of sufficient depth to permit more than superficial readings. As Pistone’s wife, Anne Heche gets to do little other than suffer and hurl accusations of neglect.

Very proficient in the many scenes with the two main actors, Mike Newell’s direction is a tad soft around the edges and lacks the intense atmospherics normally associated with such fare. Sharp production values accentuate the tacky disco-era look.
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0 of 0 users found this helpful00
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2
Paramilitary400May 17, 2015
This mob thriller is very average. A viewer familiar with Pacino and Depp's movies would expect great acting and constant action. However this movie is lacking in both acting and thrills. There are a few parts of action but barely any. For aThis mob thriller is very average. A viewer familiar with Pacino and Depp's movies would expect great acting and constant action. However this movie is lacking in both acting and thrills. There are a few parts of action but barely any. For a mob thriller the movie is very disappointing. The story drags and by the end of the movie you are relieved that it is over. This movie received high reviews from the critics and the public but it isn't on the level of mob thrillers like Casino, Goodfellas, Scarface, and The Untouchables. I wouldn't watch this movie again and for anyone who hasn't seen this skip it. Whoever misses the movie who hasn't seen it, you aren't missing anything vital. This movie adds nothing new or original to the crime genre. Expand
13 of 16 users found this helpful133
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8
SpangleJul 29, 2014
This one took me a little bit to get into and I was unimpressed, but once it got me, it completely got me. Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, and Michael Madsen, are all fantastic in this one. Ultimately, this one is a gangster film that does a reallyThis one took me a little bit to get into and I was unimpressed, but once it got me, it completely got me. Johnny Depp, Al Pacino, and Michael Madsen, are all fantastic in this one. Ultimately, this one is a gangster film that does a really good job developing the characters and making them all very human. By the end, you can see why Depp's character is going through the things he is and the conflict he is facing. In addition, though you know Pacino and Madsen are bad men, you feel a ton of sympathy for them. That is a key to the success of many films and this one completely nails making us care and feel for the characters, no matter how bad of a person they may be. In addition, the development these characters go through in two hours is great and feels like a good representation of the true story behind this one. My only complaint here was the beginning, in which the development happened at the snap of a finger and seemed a little rapid and unlikely. I feel like they probably skipped over some information there, which is too bad. However, as a whole, this one is very good and a good depiction of what really happened minus some small inaccuracies. A great showcase for the talents of Depp, Pacino, and Madsen, for sure. Expand
2 of 3 users found this helpful21
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7
sinadoomApr 13, 2014
An al-round solid film. Although there isn't much action and the typical gangster movie stuff, the story and characters were developed so well. You could really see things from their point of view. Although there's no excitement orAn al-round solid film. Although there isn't much action and the typical gangster movie stuff, the story and characters were developed so well. You could really see things from their point of view. Although there's no excitement or note-worthy scenes, there aren't any boring or unnecessary parts either. Expand
0 of 2 users found this helpful02
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9
ingie44Mar 28, 2014
Best mob movie I've seen. Brilliant cast, good plot, interesting and touching. Kept me hooked from start to finish. I would definitely would recommend watching this.
1 of 5 users found this helpful14
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8
MovieGuysFeb 20, 2014
One of the main themes of "Donnie Brasco" is the way people affect each other and relationships, and in that case it succeeds completely. But the place where this drama fails is excitement. It is very sophisticated with many different moodsOne of the main themes of "Donnie Brasco" is the way people affect each other and relationships, and in that case it succeeds completely. But the place where this drama fails is excitement. It is very sophisticated with many different moods (dark, satirical, etc.) and a superb script, but there's not that much suspense in the movie. This movie would've been an almost perfect blend of these elements had there been some of said suspense in its climax and critical moments. Expand
2 of 5 users found this helpful23
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10
gmnzJan 31, 2014
This is Johnny Depp's best film. And De Niro's too. Portrayal was on the spot. Their portrayal was very good that you forgot each actors' identity. You get lost into their character.

Also I would like to point the very accurate depiction.
This is Johnny Depp's best film. And De Niro's too. Portrayal was on the spot. Their portrayal was very good that you forgot each actors' identity. You get lost into their character.

Also I would like to point the very accurate depiction. It's like I'm watching a documentary or I was part of the federal surveillance team.

Nice classic film.
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1 of 7 users found this helpful16
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8
TokyochuchuNov 28, 2012
Donnie Brasco is an excellently acted true-story mafia flick. The only slight problem with the movie is a general lack of excitement. Donnie Brasco never feels dangerous. It totally succeeds through the power of it's relationships, however.
2 of 5 users found this helpful23
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8
wololoooAug 1, 2012
Based on a true story, Donnie Brasco subverts the glamour and scope of other successful gangster films for a more focused narrative, and the result is a very personal and effective film. The film follows a young FBI agent (Johnny Depp), as heBased on a true story, Donnie Brasco subverts the glamour and scope of other successful gangster films for a more focused narrative, and the result is a very personal and effective film. The film follows a young FBI agent (Johnny Depp), as he manages to infiltrate a mafia faction through one of its veteran soldiers, Lefty (Al Pacino).
The growing bond between Pacino and Depp's characters plays out beautifully, with both leads giving subtle and low-key, but brilliant performances. The dialogue is witty and sharp, and delivered near-perfectly by the vast majority of the cast.
One element of the film that wasn't so effective was the subplot involving Depp's deteriorating relationship with his wife and family. These scenes seemed necessary, but in my opinion were a little clunky in their execution. While there were some scenes that could have been shortened or cut out entirely (the film coming in to a lengthy 150 minutes), overall Donnie Brasco is a fine gangster flick.
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1 of 3 users found this helpful12
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7
ERG1008Sep 1, 2010
Forget about it!
Al Pacino in one of his better roles (less over the top & a caricature like most of his later work), Johnny Depp great as usual & a very strong supporting cast with Michael Madsen, Anne Heche & Bruno Kirby.
0 of 2 users found this helpful02
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10
jessecJan 25, 2009
Great movie, very entertaining.
0 of 1 users found this helpful
9
StevenSOct 19, 2006
This movie was great, loved the suspense bits... like when he's a hair away from being caught, it's got a lot of style, great movie!
0 of 0 users found this helpful
9
DanC.Apr 14, 2004
Shoulda been Depp's oscar.
0 of 0 users found this helpful
8
JohnO.Mar 10, 2004
Moving drama thriller based on a true event.
0 of 0 users found this helpful
7
GaborA.Feb 17, 2004
The entire plot becomes obvious within minutes, but what is not expected is how much of a treat character and dialouge become.
1 of 1 users found this helpful
8
PatC.Jan 13, 2004
Obviously, when the mafia is hiring, qualified candidates are not likely to inquire into the provisions of the retirement plan. As this film points out, big mistake. Pacino once again displays why he is one of the best there is.
0 of 0 users found this helpful
8
PIRANHAG.Dec 3, 2003
NICE. But i think the movie´s too long and it could be boring for some people.
0 of 0 users found this helpful
8
GLewisJun 12, 2003
A classic.
0 of 0 users found this helpful