March 5, 1997 [Donnie Brasco]

Johnny Depp wanted to get as far away as he could from 21 Jump Street--and jumped right into John Waters’ lap (lucky him--Waters or Depp, take your pick); and from there straight to Tim Burton, then Gilbert Grape--most of it good craziness, Depp as Toontown’s live-action favorite son, able to stretch and shrink like Daffy Duck through a keyhole.

But in Donnie Brasco he reshapes himself thoroughly into something closer to a Corleone than Edward Scissorhands--well, more Pacino than anything else, the two of them loping along the sidewalk, trading goombah-isms with actorly glee, giving in to the mounting tension of an old-fashioned Police Story/Prince of the City-styled procedural--with more humor and maybe even warmth, but with the same inevitable second thoughts and wounding regrets.  It’s almost as if Pacino’s Serpico cleaned himself up and took a good bite out of the movie-criminal cannoli--the richest stereotype of all, heart-attack stuff, fuh-ged-a-bow-dit--and strode next to himself, same gait, same hunched-against-the-wind posture, the walking double who’s younger and slicker--and who will replace the older man in a son’s betrayal with the requisite agony of recognition and descent.  

On the way down, though, the two of them have a wonderful time, Pacino with his Caddy and bluster, Depp with yet another new haircut, close and shiny in the same cold New York wind that blew Ratso and Buck no good as they too walked along the boulevard.


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