Ever since I have seen Infernal Affairs (IA), I said to myself that Hollywood would not pass up on a story like this. And true enough, I heard Brad Pitt bought the rights to the show and that he and Tom Cruise are slated to act in it. When I heard that the whole ensemble changed, I still was looking forward to the film. IA, with a much smaller budget, looks more expensive than The Departed (TD).
Character development -IA, is all about heart. It is about how the mole in the police, Ming, is torn between his identity as a mole, and his conscience, and the mole in the mafia/gangland, Yan, is torn between doing right for the police and his own dilemma about his identity. Ming is not bad, nor is Yan good. TD, like all other Hollywood cop movies, is about black and white. Costigan is wholesomely good, and Sullivan is utterly bad. Their characters are so one-dimensional, it's almost like the screenwriter doesn't trust his audience to be intelligent enough to know that good and evil are degrees of grey.
Timeframe - The time frame is just ridiculous in TD. Are we expected to believe that in the short span of 4 months, Costigan is able to infiltrate the mafia and become Costello's left hand man, given that everyone (so 'cleverly' explained by Queenan) knows that he was a cop and that Costello doesn't trust people easily? Are we also to believe that Sullivan can rise through the ranks of the police force so fast, considering that (also 'cleverly' explained by Ellerby) they don't trust people with perfect records? In IA, it is a convincing many years. Both characters are allowed to grow into their environment enough to be torn. TD just throws it in our face.
Acting - How can people say that the acting is superb? Matt Damon doesn't emote at all. Leo Dicarprio is so whiny, if he isn't whining to Queenan, he is whining to the shrink, or Costello and Mr. French. Martin Sheen is like a vase, so weak and wimpy, he doesn't have the air befitting of a Captain. Mark Wahlberg's character, sarcastic as hell, for what? It's a wonder that he is even there, he has no role to play at all. An omission of his character wouldn't have made the movie any less. The shrink sleeps with both Costigan and Sullivan, and we are expected to feel sorry for her? And Jack Nicholson, so painful to watch. Even the extras are so miscast-ed. The Mainland Chinese characters are so obviously 3rd generation Cantonese speakers, with the American accents, I am not a native Cantonese speaker and even I know it's all wrong.
Screenplay - This has to be one of the worst screenplays ever.
a. Costello, if he is a big time gangland boss, and that he is dealing with international crime lords, why is he and his right hand man still going round the hood to collect protection money? The writers cannot decide if he is a big-time crime lord or a smalltime mafia boss.
b. the time-line.
c. Costigan sends the tape to Madolyn, gets Sullivan to meet him at the building Queenan died, and expects to do what? It is just a cheap shot at trying to mirror IA's intelligent rooftop scene.
d. The fact that the cast says F*** every other second makes the movie cheap and crude instead of realistic.
e. the subplots are so unnecessary and so poorly intertwined. The double crossing of the mainland Chinese, the FBI informer subplot, the letter that was never heard of again, the love triangle between moles & shrink, the time in cadet school. All these subplots should be omitted, then maybe the director can concentrate on the real story.
f. What's up with the ending? First Costigan is shot (Which is a ripped off from the original), and then everyone else gets shot in the head except Sullivan. Is there a need for all that gore? Or is it just cheap thrill? And then Dignam kills Sullivan. Does Dignam have a great enough agenda to do what he did?
g. Did I mention that a lot of scenes of the movie are ripped off from the original? Even the dialog of some of the scenes is directly translated from the original. I read that the writer claims that he didn't see the original. Is he trying to claim the great parts of the movies as his own? Isn't that plagiarism? Which brings me to
Production value - Scorsese bombed, big time. He has ran out of tricks, the movie started out good, but the ending seemed so rushed, like he has ran out of time, or interest. I love GoodFellas, and his style and techniques at that time seem fresh and ingenious. But the second time he used the pinhole effect in TD, I realize that Scorsese has ran out of ideas. There are even scenes that he took from the original shot by shot, making it seem like he cannot make his own out of the material.
Over all I am very MAD. MAD at the people who say this movie is brilliant. It is brilliant only because the original is brilliant and they had taken almost every element of it. I am MAD because of the disregard of respect on the part of Scorsese's team, not giving the credits when credits are due. Is he going to get an academy award for something that is not his? Something that he so blatantly took from someone else and did not even bother to credit? That would say a lot about Hollywood and their disregard for anyone else. I am MAD at the way the movie ended and I am just disappointed that the audiences are treated like idiots and they don't know it.