October 06, 2006


Matt Damon is small in THE DEPARTEDYou know what? Matt Damon is smaller than I thought. I've always imagined him as a pretty buff regular sized guy but in THE DEPARTED he looks like a little tiny bobble-head doll. Every time they cut to a close up of him I expected the camera to pull back to reveal that he's attached to someone's dashboard as they drive down the Mass Turnpike, his big bobble-head just bobbling away.

And you know something else? Bad Cantonese is identifiable in any movie, no matter how little Cantonese you actually speak. There's a scene in THE DEPARTED, Martin Scorsese's remake of Hong Kong's, INFERNAL AFFAIRS, where some Chinese guys bust out some Cantonese and it sounds bad. Even to my untrained ears it was like listening to trained seals who're hooked on phonics trying to communicate with humans.

A friend in Hong Kong says that the Canto-speakers who watch it are wetting their pants trying to hold the laughter in and that makes me feel good. As a mono-lingual person it's nice to know that I can at least sort of, kind of, spot someone who's making a hash of a language I've heard almost every day for ten years. I wish learning a language was as easy as Antonio Banderas makes it in THE 13TH WARRIOR where they're all just sitting around a campfire one night and he just listens reeeeally hard, squints a little, and suddenly he's speaking Danish. Or whatever it is the other cast members were speaking. Cantonese?

So how is THE DEPARTED? Well, you can read a million panting reviews with the only dissenters being J. Hoberman at the Village Voice (who hasn't been fired...yet) and David Edelstein from New York Magazine (who compares it unfavorably to the original). But you know what gets my goat? A lot of the reviews say, "Closely patterned on the 2002 Hong Kong thriller..." (New York Mag) "“Infernal Affairs” on which this pic is loosely based..." (Compuserv) and the name INFERNAL AFFAIRS doesn't appear until way down in the closing credits of THE DEPARTED.

Lots of articles mention that the screenwriter and Scorsese never saw INFERNAL AFFAIRS (or maybe just Scorsese never saw it? The story changes depending on the article). And then in the press kit, Martin Scorsese says "INFERNAL AFFAIRS is a very good example of why I love Hong Kong cinema but THE DEPARTED is not a remake of that film. It was inspired by INFERNAL AFFAIRS." Um, no. It's a remake. And although it spends the first hour looking as different as possible by the time we get into the second hour everything from blocking to stage business is being swiped from the HK original.

Jack Nicholson shouldn't have been cast. Booooring THE DEPARTED is Scorsese's best movie in years, probably since CASINO, but it's not a patch on the original.

It's rare that two different directors will take on the same piece of material and deliver almost identical interpretations of it, and THE DEPARTED really exposes some interesting truths. Describe the plot of a Martin Scorsese movie, quick! You can't do it. Because his movies don't have plots, they have characters. RAGING BULL is about Jake LaMotta. TAXI DRIVER is about Travis Bickle. GOODFELLAS is about Ray Liotta. KING OF COMEDY is about Rupert Pupkin. The necessary narrative engine of GANGS OF NEW YORK was welded onto that movie so awkwardly that it wound up sinking the ship because Scorsese just doesn't care about narrative. He likes people. He's a great filmmaker, and he gets amazing performances out of people, but a storyteller he's not. So what happens when you hand him one of the tightest scripts ever written?

At two-and-a-half hours, Scorsese wrings every ounce of acting-juice he can out of this script, gives scenes to Leo and Matt and Jack, lets his actors really chow down, hell he even saves the hideous therapist/girlfriend angle from the original and nearly makes it work. But what you realize is that for all the acting, INFERNAL AFFAIRS is about the story, it's about the plot, and if you can't keep that plot moving then you sink. Adding an exhausting 50 minutes to the original, by the time THE DEPARTED reached the finish line the audience was laughing at people getting shot in the head. I've never seen anyone laugh at the end of INFERNAL AFFAIRS but THE DEPARTED becomes so over-the-top and grotesque that you have to laugh. In fact, you feel like Scorsese doesn't see souls at stake but instead wants you to laugh at all the silly bloodshed, which is a bit weird coming from Scorsese.

THE DEPARTED poster So can we do bullet points?

- much longer than INFERNAL AFFAIRS
- a lot of fun
- the love interest is much better than in INFERNAL AFFAIRS
- Jack Nicholson shouldn't have been cast. Booooring.
- Really great first hour. Boggy second hour and a half.
- Not much religion. Which is weird since INFERNAL AFFAIRS is intensely religious.
- Key set-pieces (the drug buy; both rooftop showdowns) are here but so many little details are missing that they don't carry the suspense that they did in the original.
- Suspense isn't the issue, actually. Matt Damon's character is clearly identified as the bad guy about a third of the way into the movie.
- The competing daddies angle is gone.
- Martin Sheen is great. Why isn't he in movies anymore?
- Alec Baldwin is funny.
- Marky Mark is really good at profanity.
- Can someone make a Marky Mark/Alec Baldwin/Martin Sheen movie where they all cuss a lot?
- Is Leo better than little Tony? Is Matt better than Andy? It doesn't really matter because they're all giving completely different performances. All good in their own way. Gold stars for everyone.
- The look is nice. Much grittier and more realistic than INFERNAL AFFAIRS.
- Details, details, details. For all the fabled Scorsese-obsession over details how come the bloody cell phone isn't in an evidence bag? And how is the blood still fresh and wet hours after it was taken from the scene of the crime.

See THE DEPARTED. Enjoy THE DEPARTED. Because, gratifyingly, it's not going to steal any of the original's thunder. THE DEPARTED is a great Martin Scorsese movie. But INFERNAL AFFAIRS is just a great movie, period.

October 6, 2006 at 10:30 AM in Reviews | Permalink


Scorsese said that he has seen INFERNAL AFFAIRS.

The screenwriter said that he never saw it, though.

Posted by: no name | Oct 6, 2006 10:47:04 AM

I'm surprised by your take on it, and the reaction of the audience you saw it with. I saw INFERNAL AFFAIRS when it first was out on DVD in Hong Kong, but I was still on the edge of my seat throughout THE DEPARTED despite knowing what was coming. At the screening I attended, people were gasping in horror at the end, not laughing.

I also felt THE DEPARTED was fairly different than INFERNAL AFFAIRS, and quite a bit better. Don't get me wrong, I loved INFERNAL AFFAIRS, but THE DEPARTED just stunned me in a way that it's source material didn't.

Honestly, do you feel you had a bias against THE DEPARTED because it was a Hollywood remake of an Asian film, or did you approach it with an open mind?

Posted by: Rick | Oct 6, 2006 12:31:22 PM

The Departed had WAY too much Jack Nicholson in it.

Posted by: Brian | Oct 6, 2006 3:00:07 PM

I think I approached it with a very open mind although it's possible. And I didn't at all think it was a bad movie. But it's interesting to see the way suspense and tension are built up throughout, say, the drug bust scene in the original and how it's not built up at all in the drug bust scene in THE DEPARTED. Scorsese's interest isn't in building tension, it's in looking at character.

The audience I saw it with was a very Times Square preview audience: looking for a good time, not in awe of Scorsese's place in the canon. And I have to admit that in the multiple head shots of the conclusion and then the rat I saw a lot more to laugh about - as did this audience - than to get tense about.

The only change I really didn't like was that I hated the new ending of THE DEPARTED and the way Matt Damon was clearly the bad guy. I thought the ambiguity of the original and the much more hideous ending of the original where you truly feel like one character's soul was burning in hell forever was much more interesting than in the more Hollywood ending of THE DEPARTED. But that's the only place where I thought a truly negative change was made.

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Oct 6, 2006 3:25:41 PM

love the bullet point format. just saved me lots of brain cells (no joke!)

Posted by: ed | Oct 6, 2006 3:47:51 PM

It's funny how different people look at things, because from reading your blog I suspect that we generally have very similar tastes, but I LOVED the new ending of the film. It felt so much more satisfying to me than either of the original endings.

I also didn't think that Andy Lau being a "bad guy" was very ambiguous in I.A., I recall being fully aware that he was a bad guy while watching it. To be honest though it's been awhile. I guess I need to go back and watch it again.

But I did think the rat at the end was funny too, so there you go.

Posted by: Rick | Oct 6, 2006 4:07:22 PM

Hey Grady,
How much of IA2 and IA3 is injected in The Departed?

Posted by: the running man | Oct 6, 2006 4:13:11 PM

Another quibble about the Chinese: if they're from Mainland China, they should have been speaking MANDARIN, not Cantonese.

Posted by: Adam | Oct 6, 2006 5:30:31 PM

Rick, you're not wrong. I'm not sure how anyone could have watched Infernal Affairs and thought the smirking, insufferable Andy Lau was the "good guy" for more than a couple of minutes, and certainly not compared to Tony Leung's haunted character. I suspect that praising I.A.'s imaginary "ambiguity" is just part and parcel of the Hong Kong=Good/Hollywood=Bad formula so prevalent on this blog.

And I love all the focus on the one scene with the Chinese language. Yeah, that's the important part! After all, it's not like any Asian film has ever butchered the English language. We are the lethal weapon!!!

Posted by: Scott Hamilton | Oct 6, 2006 6:23:49 PM

It's definitely not a bad movie but if you've seen IA, you see a lot of the best bits coming. BTW, I did get clarification on the whole "did Scorsese or didn't Scorsese see the original?" and he definitely did see it before making the movie as did Damon/DiCaprio (this is from the horse's mouth)... on the other hand, screenwriter Bill Monahan didn't see the movie, but worked from a translated script when writing his version.

Posted by: EDouglas | Oct 6, 2006 9:00:31 PM

Its funny but when I read your review I realized just how similar our opinions are but at the same time very different:

I mentioned in my review about IA is only mentioned in the end credits (I also mention that none of the ads on TV, trailers, posters, etc. mention IA or the fact that Departed is a remake), the fact that the first hour is really solid, but the next hour and a half tanks, and the fact that that's because it's in full IA mode complete with plot points, etc.

Where we differ is that the last hour and a half kills the film for more. I just couldn't take so much mind-numbing testosterone, the ending is just completely overblown, Jack goes way way beyond over the top, and no part of the story seemed salvageable by the end. I don't know; I guess me and J. Holberman will have to sit this one out. But he'll sit in the big critics corner while I sit in the cheap seats way way behind him. That's the way we both like it...for now.

Posted by: simon abrams | Oct 6, 2006 9:46:33 PM

So Scorcese DID see, or rather, admits seeing the original - it's obvious just from the shots in the trailer that he saw it, but as we all know honesty is a virtue. I suppose whatever it was I read where he said he hadn't seen it was a misquote. That settles my main issue with THE DEPARTED - just leaving Jack Nicholson as a poorly chosen substitute for Eric Tsang.

As for bitching about people bitching about the Chinese language scenes - it's OK for THE DEPARTED to have poor quality Chinese language scenes because Asian films frequently contain poor quality English language scenes? That's presidential-grade logic. If it were me, I'd figure that a whole lot of Chinese-speaking people were going to be curious about this film so I better not screw up the few scenes in it that are in Chinese, or I'm going to look pretty silly... at best.

Posted by: Rhythm-X | Oct 6, 2006 10:59:15 PM

It's eerie -- I saw it in Dallas at a late afternoon screening in an upscale mall multiplex with a good number of gray heads, and they were laughing at the ending too (though I heard others say afterwards that they thought it was really good). A complete disaster in my mind (the ending).

I came to it with an open mind, and agree with most of what Grady wrote.

Posted by: Peter Martin | Oct 6, 2006 11:32:05 PM

I found Departed's emotion and energy lacking. Nicholson is aight but Eric Tsang does a better job as mob boss. Overall, I still prefer the original and only IA.

Posted by: Terry | Oct 7, 2006 4:45:58 AM

My wife thinks they should have made Jack Nicholson play Martin Sheen's role and Martin Sheen play Jack Nicholson's and I have to say that may have made a big difference.

I think I'm suffering from "Here's Johnny" fatigue. Nicholson is capable of a lot more, and it shows up in fits and starts - esp. in THE DEPARTED. But he's a ham, the Vincent Price of this generation, and while that's not all bad you wish that he'd do something different and surprising but still good. If he'd been channeling paternal sincerity and Martin Sheen had been delivering duplicitous cunning it would have given THE DEPARTED such a different energy.

Of course, Monday morning quarterbacking is easy. Getting Jack Nicholson to wear a dildo is hard.

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Oct 7, 2006 7:18:37 AM

I repeat:

"Hey Grady,
How much of IA2 and IA3 is injected in The Departed?"

"So Scorcese DID see, or rather, admits seeing the original - it's obvious just from the shots in the trailer that he saw it, but as we all know honesty is a virtue."

He didn't see it. Neither did the scriptwriter. The scriptwriter based his script on an English translated version of the Chinese script for IA.

Posted by: the running man | Oct 7, 2006 8:03:33 AM

"Getting Jack Nicholson to wear a dildo is hard."

Sorry, but that was Jack's idea. He wouldn't do the movie without a bigger part with more violence and sex and general bad-manneredness. If he'd managed to reel in a tighter performance (which could have cut down on the length), it could have been a much tighter movie.

Ah, could have beens...

Posted by: chiuczek | Oct 7, 2006 5:11:51 PM

I can't remember IA 2 and 3 enough to know what's in THE DEPARTED. Was the scene with the crook and the cell phone where Andy pretends to be his lawyer in 1, 2 or 3? That's the only bit I thought might have been from 2 or 3, but I could be wrong.

Posted by: Grady Hendrix | Oct 7, 2006 10:31:51 PM

The lawyer bit is at the beginning of the first one.

Posted by: quadshock | Oct 7, 2006 10:55:53 PM

Great review, Grady--funny and caustic--though I thought Jack Nicholson did a pretty good job, IMHO. :)

"Infernal Affairs" (which I adored) was a tighter, more compact film--although unlike "The Departed" it did enjoy the luxury of having a prequels in IA2 and IA3 to thresh out the Tony Leung and Andy Lau characters, leading up to the events in IA1.

Just saw "Departed" last night with some friends, and we really did wait with bated breath (and for too long a time, in our opinion) until the closing credits actually mentioned the IA connection. And although I AM thankful that Scorsese didn't mangle the original plot and stayed 90% true to the storyline, it was borderline criminal for the original film to have gotten such little credit for "Departed's" success.

I was quite happy with "Departed"; I thought it an excellent remake (although the original was better in many ways), and although it was a "Faithful Departed" (copyright Richard Corliss' TIME review, lol), I like that it had a different FEEL from the original, and yes, the main characters were different from IA, each unique in his own way. It's very much a Scorese film, and DiCaprio, Damon and Nicholson's characterizations had a fresh spin on the original characters, truly making them their own. Martin Sheen and MarkyMark also turned in memorable performances, holding their own against the three previously mentioned.

I just didn't like how "Departed" ended. *Spoiler alert* Even if MarkyMark's character had the motive (revenge, duh) and the means to serve Matt Damon his comeuppance in the end, it diminished the final, indelible impact the original film left me with when IA ended with Andy Lau alive as a respected and bemedalled detective, starting on a "clean" slate after having eliminated all those who knew of his Triad connection. THAT for me is the best and most poignant irony: that yes, the bad guy outlasts the good guy, but he has a lifetime to live with the rottenness and the guilt of his sins gnawing at his insides. The good guy gets death and the bad guy gets life, but an empty kind of life, bereft of any substance and joy and peace worth having. And that's where Scorsese went wrong, by killing off Matt Damon. *Spoiler ends*

And may I just add that as an Asian, it riles me to learn that the Triad goons weren't even speaking authentic Cantonese--that's just the lowest point of Hollywood filmdom's ethnic insensitivity, that the casting agent for "Departed" didn't even bother to make sure the Chinese-speaking characters sounded realistic at all. Although I'm not Chinese (I'm Filipino), and wouldn't have been able to tell the difference (together with, like, the 50 million other non-Chinese people who saw the movie), I still stand on the principle of the matter: what they did was just wrong.

On a related matter, maybe you could shed light on the news tidbit about THE Andy Lau asking for a cameo in "Departed"--being a huge Scorsese fan--and getting turned down (by Dreamworks? by one of the producers? by Scorsese himself?) purportedly because there were no Asian roles in the film? Oh, gee, look, it turns out there WERE Asian roles--the Triad goons with the politically incorrect Cantonese! I myself don't know the veracity of this rumor, but it WOULD have been fantastic to see Andy Lau or anyone from the original cast have an appearance in "Departed"--just as a shout-out to the millions of fans of "Infernal Affairs", who KNOW that Scorsese didn't snatch his film's premise from thin air, no matter how much distance he tries to put between him and the Lau/Mak original.

Posted by: Ender's Girl | Oct 8, 2006 5:09:37 AM

"I can't remember IA 2 and 3 enough to know what's in THE DEPARTED. Was the scene with the crook and the cell phone where Andy pretends to be his lawyer in 1, 2 or 3? That's the only bit I thought might have been from 2 or 3, but I could be wrong."

You can't? But you were saying before that as much as you liked IA1, IA2 was the film you kept going back to and did see it as a better film than the first one. :(

Man, that really sucks. I'm like in the minority here that sees IA2 for how great it is and that it is the best film in the IA trilogy (specifically that it is better than the first film).

Well, in any case, I ask because I had the suspicion of that ever since the trailer came out, as there were things that reminded me of IA 2 and 3. Mind you, I didn't see The Departed yet, but it still crosses my mind.

If think about it, Mark Whalberg and Martin Sheen's character know about Leo's identity. The only time in the IA trilogy that shows two people knowing Tony Leung's identity and working with him is in IA2. Also, in the trailer there is a scene of a car blowing up. Now this could very well be just part of an action sequence but it could very well bring to mind a scene from IA2.

Also, if you look at the trailer there seems to be a conversation taking place between Jack Nicholsan and Leo Dicaprio at a bar. In the trailer we see Jack leaving the bar and smacking Leo's shoulder which Leo looks quite disturbed. Earlier in the trailer we see Leo picking up something that looks like an ashtray and attacking someone with it in what looks like to be the same place they were talking. This reminds me totally of IA3 in the scene were Yan (Tony Leung) is told by Sam over the phone to attack Shen's brother. He first looks quite troubled to do so and then proceeds to take an ash try and bash him with it.

What confirms that something like that is going on when Andy Lau said after the HK premier of The Departed that he noticed the film combined elements from the sequels along with the first movie despite the fact that the producers of The Departed only paid for the first one (Andy Lau I believe added jokingly, that the producers of IA should count their money).

Posted by: the running man | Oct 8, 2006 7:50:44 AM

On Andy Lau being/not being an out-and-out-badguy in IA: the ambiguity wasn't about the fact that he was bad, it was about the fact that he was clearly making efforts to become the good cop he'd been pretending to be. Particularly evident in the final rooftop confrontation where, had it not been for the interruption, he was prepared to be taken into custody (not his prefered course of events admittedly, but he didn't seem to have any intention of fighting back at any point).

Yet to see The Departed, but I assume from the discussion here that this "shade of grey" isn't present, which is disappointing as it was one of the most interesting elements in the original.

Posted by: Mathew | Oct 8, 2006 9:04:49 AM

Andy Lau was not a bad guy towards the end of IA1. In fact, there is no ambiguity it was quite obvious that he was trying to do the opposite and make everything right but the situation at that point was beyond his control and when it all got messed up, he tried to clean it up and bury it so he can start over. But by that point it's too late.

This downward spiral continues in Infernal Affairs 3.

Posted by: the running man | Oct 8, 2006 10:13:53 AM

I just wanted to follow up on what a couple of people have said about Andy Lau being clearly the bad guy. In IA, Andy Lau's character struggles between his loyalty to the mob boss and his own sense of morality. In the end, he tries to make everything right and becomes a "good guy", but it is too late and events spiral out of his control. The ending is far more emotional because you mourn for both Tony Leung and Andy Lau's characters at the end of the film.

I enjoyed The Departed, but I felt the emotional impact, present in IA, was sorely lacking. Damon's character was always trying to cover his own ass and never seemed to have much of a moral crisis. When he talks about moving with the psychiatrist and when he breaks down and says "just kill me" in the elevator, we see a hint of it, but not enough to really sympathize with. It was still tense and sad up until the end, but it didn't leave you with a sick feeling that just lingers in your gut as you leave the theater. The Talented Mr. Ripley and The Godfather: Part 2 are movies that come to mind that have the same effect.

Posted by: Anthony | Oct 8, 2006 12:35:42 PM

I just wanted to clarify that I meant Internal Affairs had the same effect as Talented Mr. Ripley and Godfather 2, but The Departed lacked that emotional punch.

Posted by: Anthony | Oct 8, 2006 12:38:15 PM

*INFERNAL AFFAIRS I and II spoiler alert for all of this post*

"Andy Lau was not a bad guy towards the end of IA1." "Andy Lau's character struggles between his loyalty to the mob boss and his own sense of morality. In the end, he tries to make everything right and becomes a "good guy", but it is too late and events spiral out of his control." Agree with the Running Man and Anthony here -- at least when taking INFERNAL AFFAIRS I on its own and without its prequel.

Put another way: what I recall having taken away most from INFERNAL AFFAIRS II -- after seeing Edison Chen's character (i.e., the younger version of Andy Lau's IA I and III characters) what did to Carina Lau's -- was the utter shock of realizing that the Edison/Andy character was, indeed, a bad -- even evil -- one (as opposed to the Triad guy who happened to be in a bad position and wrong place which one felt re the Andy character for a large part of IA I). Without feeling at the end of IA I that Andy's character wasn't all that bad, would never have experienced that frisson when that revelatory moment in IA II (i.e., the second film in order of production and release date but, as we know, the prequel in terms of story) came along.

Posted by: YTSL | Oct 8, 2006 6:36:35 PM

Spoilers ahead.

I enjoyed The Departed, and I'm in agreement with Grady on many points. Really strong performances from the two leads (and I haven't liked Leo in anything since maybe This Boy's Life), the girlfriend storyline worked better, way too much JACK! throws the balance off the film, and I thought the film was kind of supposed to be about that balance, and the ending, both the final shooting and the final shot, was cheesy, no pun intended. That is some Hostess Twinkie Hollywood BS right there, to paraphrase Chad Palamino. On the other hand, it never felt long to me, it was great seeing Kevin Corrigan for a few brief scenes, and while Wahlberg was funny in a kind of over-the-top actually kind of annoying way, I had no idea why they'd given the Martin Sheen character a sidekick until the end, and then I still didn't know why. I mean I guess I knew why, but I still said to myself, "WHY??!!"

Still, it's the best work Scorsese's done in ages, anyone who really likes (as opposed to worships) the original is bound to enjoy it. And I'm kind of glad that it beat out that Texas Chainsaw Massacre "prequel" at the box office this weekend.

Posted by: Josh Ralske | Oct 8, 2006 10:27:04 PM

I was watching "The Departed" ready to completely bash the film. I thought that it was an excellent remake/re-interpretation of the film. Definitely not superior to the original, but it suits the target audience much better. I especially liked how he imbued everything with edgy humor. My only gripe was that the excessive violence did cause the audience to crack up on a regular basis. I think that there were some scenes were the film would have benefited from less blood spatter or even just the blood spatter without actually visibility of the kill, just for effect. Part of IA Trilogy's appeal was that the kills often happened in a manner that maximized the impact (blood dripping slowly, or a sudden impact like in IA2's running over of someone) rather than slap-stick blood spatter.

Posted by: Brandon | Oct 9, 2006 1:52:37 AM

SPOILER ALERT: I agree with the assessment that Scorsese is great at characters but not so great at plot. Yet, even when it comes to character, I was disappointed in the ending. Costigan's character seemed careless when he took the gun off Sullivan in the elevator and stood a few feet away from him...thus making himself easy to take down. He wasn't a careless person so this didn't make sense to me.

I thought it was sloppy on plot...the envelope Costigan gives to the psychiatrist is never followed up on, it's unclear how Costello was tipping the FBI, or how Dignan figures out Sullivan is the mole, etc. etc. etc.

I guess the reason these weaknesses are so frustrating is because it's such a GOOD STORY and you don't want to see that go to waste. I particularly love the dualities all these characters face, in terms of doing both good and evil at various times in their roles. Mind blowing. The Departed overall is still worth seeing.

Posted by: Anna | Oct 9, 2006 2:00:13 AM

I would have thought that a morticum of resource would have been alotted to making that "Chinese exchange"scene marginally believable in this movie.
For a serious, multi-million dollar production, geared inevitably, towards a world-wide distribution, (let alone it being a Chinese remake), it is ironic that the production team let this one slip.

In the words of one writer in the forum, he gets this impression of "ethnic insensitivity" ,(only if one in easily injured by these kinds of callousness for perhaps feeling being "left out"), but to me it is an example of that glaringly complacent blissful cultural-ignorance that has plaqued countless hollywood movies in its history with perhaps the exceptions to those done in fairly recent times.

Many professionally produced movies these days dealing with similar topics have been vigilant and given due dilligence to ethnic correctness. How then,does this simple but important detail escapes the esteemed director and his correspondingly apt crew is certainly baffling.

The encounter scene felt like it was staged fully entrusted to a language coach right out of ye old ChinaTown from the TV series Kung Fu II ,while the entire crew goes off for a break because it is a foreign sequence and of no concern to them.(and the segment subsequently given a first time pass when they returned)

Probably unnoticeable to general non-Chinese speaking American viewers, This spectacular sloppy segment will certainly give an entire third of the potential viewers in the movie-going world a roll-in-the-aisle for its unintentional comedy, cheapening an otherwise valuable production to a farce.
In a way, the callous violence and insentive gallow humor that Marty wanted to impart to the play does resonates with his corresponding treatment, (or the complete lack there of it) of that farcical scene with the Chinese, it does smells of conceptual backwardness and decadence.

Why is it of concern?

Here is the Details of the mishaps:

1) Mainland Chinese speaks mainly madarin, especially when needed to talk cross dialect.

2)The "translator" did a supposed translation of Nicholson's speech word for word in heavily accented non-grammatic Cantonese which ultimately made no sense to the listeners

3)Many Chinese-competent bilingual viewer will go see their favourite remake by a renouned director

To argue that this is an American film made for an American audience just doesn't cut it in these day and age. Besides the fact that many American audience are much more knowledgeable these days, you've really got the world audience to content with.

As for the the "tit-for-tat" analogy of mutual language butchering , it presupposes some kind of insults to that cultural sector if it is given a neglegent treatment to one's own work.....
but why would one make a joke of one's otherwise serious hard work out of reciprocal cultural defiance?

If anybody in the team was modest enough to ask for help, I imagine Andy Lau would have been quick to oblige having himself a stake in this infernal affair.

Marty, Marty, keep up with the times, huh!

Posted by: al | Oct 10, 2006 10:04:17 AM

There should have been cameos.

What I mean is that there were roles in the film that were explicitly Chinese, wasn't there ANYBODY from Infernal Affairs that they could have squeezed in? How cool would it have been if Jack Nicholson was staring down Eric Tsang at the chip exchange? Or if Matt Damon stabbed Andy Lau/Tony Leung in the pursuit sequence? That would have scored some major bonus points with the film junkies/critics.

And there is a valuable lesson to be learned, a little bit of Anthony Wong will improve ANY movie, The Departed sure could have used a dose of the Wong-ster.

Posted by: Max K. | Oct 10, 2006 1:15:29 PM

I agree with you that jack nicholson should not have been cast as the 'boss'. He doesn't have that smooth boss feel nor look. He just looks a little crazy and angry a lot.
I couldnt say that Eric Tsang wasnt a good mobboss, but ive seen him in too many stupid chinese movies to see him as anything but a funny guy...

Being a Hong Konger and watching the chinese scene microchip/money trade it was halarious hearing chinese looking people spit out such bad cantonese.

I don't think anyone from Chinese could have been added to the cast as a gang member, it would look way out of place... since there would almost be no reason for a chinese person to be there, no matter how amazing anthony wong is.

The details were rather overlooked in this movie, once i saw the bloody items on Colin's desk i was wondering why they were there and not being analysed or in at least a bag... and why he was even allowed to touch the phone... The chinese translator didnt really translate anything much, and it was said all jumbled up, dont see how anyone could have understood what he was saying.

Posted by: Chantal | Oct 16, 2006 3:31:48 AM


Just saw the movie last night and left the theater confused about the ending. First of all, what was in the first envelope that Leo DiCaprio gave to the psychiatrist girlfriend that was only to be opened if something happened to him? This was never explained. They only showed the psychiatrist opening a second envelope that was addressed from DiCaprio to Matt Damon's character.

Second, how did Marky Mark know that Damon was the mole at the end? He had quit the force weeks earlier and was in no position to receive any confidential intel. Did DiCaprio somehow contact him from beyond the grave? Did the psychiatrist pass on confidential info to Marky Mark?

I was very confused. This ambiguous ending marred an otherwise very good film.

Posted by: Archie | Oct 16, 2006 5:22:24 AM

Here's my take on it.


Mark Wahlberg is the "master" informant. When DiCaprio learns the truth, he gives the secretary whore an envelope. In the envelope are instructions as to (a) where to find all of the tapes and (b) who is behind everything (Damon).

So, there are actually FOUR informants, Nicholson (this is revealed), Wahlberg (the master informant, who is not revealed until the end), Damons' friend (no name is given), and Damon (also revealed). When DiCaprio learns the truth, Wahlberg, on a two-week sabattical, sends his troops into action. First, he has the informatnt with no name kill all of the people who know everything about this crime, including DiCaprio, and the black guy. Now, there are three people remaining: Damon, the informant with no name, and Wahlberg. Damon pops the informant with no name, leaving only Damonand Wahlberg. The secretary whore knows that (a) Damon is a mass killer and (b) DiCaprio is the father of her baby, so she really doesn't care what happens to Damon, as evidenced by the silent treatment she gives Damon and the tears she sheds at Damon's funeral. However, there is one loose thread for Wahlberg, and that is Damon. He is the only one alive who knows about the whole saga. So, off he goes, and kills Damon. Wahlberg has all of the tapes, as the envelope the secretary whore opens instructs her to tell Wahlberg where everything is. Everyone connected to the crime is killed, and Wahlberg alone knows everything.

Posted by: robsterman | Oct 16, 2006 7:52:04 AM

The first hour of the movie was quite original, but the remaining is 90% replicate of the original. Now I am thinking why I had spent half of my ticket fare on a re-run. I may as well watched the original?
Actually, I don't understand why the American studio dare not dub a good movie into English. Is it because they don't expect that a movie with all Chinese to speak good English? Perhaps they don't expect that some countries like Singapore which have almost everyone on the street to speak English, yet majority are not white.
Some Singapore TV shows have everyone speaking in English, but everyone is Chinese. I don't find it awkward. I speak English most of the time.
Keep the original. Keep the essence. Dub if necessary.
However, someone may say that that Hollywood needs to create jobs by remaking movies ...

Posted by: NightOwl | Oct 17, 2006 9:04:45 AM

I think The Departed shows the difference between 2 cultures. Western people like everything is clearly told. Bad guys have to be punished physically. On the other hand, Asian movies leave you some spaces for you to think after stepping out of the cinema. Sometimes, it works but it doesn't. For example, I think "The Ring" is better than Japanese's Original "Ringu". "The Grudge" is having the same problem. The Original is good but not so clear. However, story of "Infernal Affairs" is already a perfect story. From acting, music, to editing, IA is a bit better. I think it's good to take out good/bad guy issue in Matt/Andy's character in The Departed. It's because western people won't understand the feeling of being trapped in between heaven and hell. IA's Chinese name means "never-ending-hell". Leo/Tony and Matt/Andy are both falling into this situation. At the end, Matt/Andy's character lives but he falls into the worst situation. That's why Matt/Andy kills himself in IA3.

Posted by: Andy Lau | Oct 23, 2006 1:35:11 AM

Where is this article that says that Scorsese naver saw the article?????//

Posted by: VK07 | Oct 26, 2006 10:17:53 AM

Look, The departed was much better than Infernal Affairs. Did you see the end of The Departed, Matt Damon's character died in the end, that's what makes it better. In Infernal Affairs, why did Andy Lau's character live, his character deserve to die anyway. I do agree with Nightowl post. Did you know the Lake house was actually a remake of the Korean film, Il Mare. There are a lot of foreign film being remake by US. I don't see anything wrong with that, I've seen a lot of J-horror being remade and they are all good.

Posted by: Michael Do | Nov 1, 2006 7:26:38 AM

I just didn't like how "Departed" ended. *Spoiler alert* Even if MarkyMark's character had the motive (revenge, duh) and the means to serve Matt Damon his comeuppance in the end, it diminished the final, indelible impact the original film left me with when IA ended with Andy Lau alive as a respected and bemedalled detective, starting on a "clean" slate after having eliminated all those who knew of his Triad connection. THAT for me is the best and most poignant irony: that yes, the bad guy outlasts the good guy, but he has a lifetime to live with the rottenness and the guilt of his sins gnawing at his insides. The good guy gets death and the bad guy gets life, but an empty kind of life, bereft of any substance and joy and peace worth having. And that's where Scorsese went wrong, by killing off Matt Damon. *Spoiler ends*

Hello, his character deserve it. He play the bad guy, the bad guy should not be allowed to live.

Posted by: Michael Do | Nov 1, 2006 7:33:16 AM

*Serious Spoilers for all IA films*

I tried really hard to like The Departed, but alas, it hardly compares to the impact of the original. One of the main problems in the film is the lack of empathy or sympathy with any of the characters. Everyone says how great Scorsese is with characters, but I did not care about anyone. Like when Martin Sheen's character dies - the impact is no where near that of Anthony Wong's death in IA. In fact, you care about EVERYONE in Infernal Affairs--the good, the bad and even the minor, supporting characters. Like when Chapman To dies in IA my heart breaks.

And if you've seen all three IAs, the character relationships are so complex. Like Tony Leung and Anthony Wong - Anthony Wong plotted the death of Tony's father and then killed his brother and yet he is the one who protects him...and then of course dies later mainly because of Tony.

And Andy Lau is clearly the bad guy in IA, but really none of the characters in the films are black and white. Eric Tsang is the triad boss, but as we see in IA2 he's also a man who loves his wife and cares about his crew. And then Anthony Wong is a good guy, but he also does bad things. Andy Lau may seem to be wanting to become a good guy, but it's not so clean cut. Eric Tsang says it in the beginning of IA, "What thousands must die so that Caesar may become great?" Well, Andy takes this to heart and kills Eric Tsang and Ka Tung Lam (the other mole at the end) so that he can just be a cop.

This is a lot deeper and more complex than Matt Damon's character who is just a bad guy trying not to get caught.

And in my theater there were people laughing throughout the entire film. Not really what I was expecting considering the original is so epic and moving.

And what's with everyone saying that Matt Damon should die because he was the bad guy? So the bad should always be punished and the good rewarded? Isn't that a little trite?

Posted by: Liz | Nov 1, 2006 9:16:39 AM

The Departed is rubbish it was more dark comic than serious when half the time the theatre is in stiches laughing there has to be a problem. Also when you have better actors playing smaller parts than the main 2 . Damon is alright in it , ive never liked di caprio or any of the films he has made . ive watched the departed once and never again I would rather watch a film starring aaron kwok again than this and thats saying something

Posted by: Stephen cole | Nov 1, 2006 12:29:12 PM

The fact that any of you can sit there and criticize Jack Nicholson for his work in the Departed actually makes me chuckle. It is my opinion that he is one of the greatest actors of our time, and this is blatantly proven in this movie. Nicholson took the script and re-wrote it because his character wasn't mean and gritty enough, and many of you criticize him because he's unlikable? Whatever the reason for your dislike of Jack Nicholson, I'd be keeping that foot in your mouth well after he wins the Oscar for best actor.

Posted by: Jilks | Jan 4, 2007 3:33:17 PM

Right...cause whoever the Academy picks to win awards every year should be taken as the biblical truth...

Posted by: the running man | Jan 4, 2007 4:32:18 PM

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