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Donnie Brasco: Special Edition

There are some movies that have bad luck no matter how good they are, failing to find a popular audience. Such a film is Donnie Brasco from 1997, arriving on DVD as a special-edition disc in its second incarnation from Columbia TriStar, and with a ton of extras. In Donnie Brasco British director Mike Newell had a dream cast — Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Bruno Kirby, James Russo, and Michael Madsen, among many others. And in Paul Attanasio's screenplay he had a fine adaptation of a true life account of FBI agent Joe Pistone (Depp), who infiltrated a Brooklyn-based branch of the Bonanno Mafia family. Pistone first connects with Lefty Ruggiero (Pacino), and Ruggiero and Pistone eventually become legitimate friends. But eventually Pistone faces the dilemma of both liking Lefty and also knowing that everything he is doing will lead to Lefty's assassination. So how was Newell and his producers to know that the public had, perhaps only momentarily, lost interest in gritty, realistic, Sidney Lumet-style true-life crime tales? For all its merits, Donnie Brasco, which was produced for $35 million, grossed just under $42 million in the United States. However, the film did go on to be nominated for, and in some cases even win, a variety of prizes, including a nod for best adapted screenplay at the 1998 Oscars. Donnie Brasco is a fine film, deeply moving, funny, and suspenseful. Pacino is brilliant, and Depp reminds us that he is the best actor of his generation. Columbia TriStar's Donnie Brasco: Special Edition features an anamorphic widescreen image (2.35:1) with a flawless source print and audio in both Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 Surround. The best supplement is the commentary by director Newell, and he basically comes off as one of the movie's biggest fans, appreciating Pacino's performance and the visual wit of the clothes, cars, and faces. Newell also provides an introduction and commentary for five deleted scenes. Other feautures include a 23-minute featurette called Donnie Brasco: Out of the Shadows, made for this disc, which features an interview with the real Pistone, a seven-minute featurette (that is really a glorified trailer), an isolated score, a three-minute photo gallery with audio track combining music and dialogue from the film, the theatrical trailer plus three "bonus" trailers, talent files on the director and the five lead actors, production notes, and DVD-ROM weblinks to the film's website. Keep-case.
—JJB

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