The Departed (2006)

I never really bought into the excitement surrounding Infernal Affairs when it came out. At the time it no doubt represented an improvement in the fortunes of Hong Kong cinema, which went into an apparently terrible post-reunification slump, which is probably why people were hyping it. I thought it was good enough but, really, I’d seen better. And much the same holds true for the film’s American remake (which I’ve now belatedly seen): it’s good but for me it’s not the masterpiece many people have hyped it as being. Long before the film came out I was puzzled by it anyway, not so much the idea of Hollywood remaking a well-regarded foreign film (which is de rigueur) but the idea of Martin Scorsese doing it; I know it’s not his first one, obviously, but something about Scorsese remaking a Hong Kong actioner just struck me as, I don’t know, desperate. In the end I think he actually did a fair job of translation, managing to base some of the remake’s characters on actual personages and situating it quite well in the specifically Boston Irish background. But it’s still problematic; Matt Damon never convinced me as a sweary would-be tough guy (DiCaprio is quite good in the opposite role; Jack Nicholson is Jack Nicholson and by now will never be anything else, I suppose), and Scorsese never resolves the original’s problem with too many endings, but the biggest issue is, frankly, one of length; it’s nearly an hour longer than Infernal Affairs. Possibly Scorsese thought that making the film 150 minutes long would make it look more like an Important Major Work rather than just a Hollywood remake of an Asian genre entertainment, but it just means the film takes too long to build up a head of steam and it remains a lot slower than this sort of thing really should be.

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