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Donnie Brasco (1997, Johnny Depp, Al Pacino)

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Undercover cop Joe Pistone (Johnny Depp) – working as a jeweller named Donnie Brasco – works his way into the New York mob of the ’70s thanks to Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino), whom he helps by spotting a fake diamond a debtor has offered as payment.

His reward is an introduction to the local crew, including Nicky (Bruno Kirby) and young Sonny Black (Michael Madsen), who is chosen for promotion over the ageing Lefty. Donnie slowly gains the trust of the crew, coming close to blowing his cover several times, and taking risks as his role consumes his real identity and tests the tolerance of his wife Maggie (Anne Heche).

When an alliance with Florida gangsters goes wrong, Sonny and Lefty suspect an informer in their midst and even though it’s a rival mobster who set them up, Pistone finds himself in danger. As the FBI decide to pull him out, they discover it may be too late…

Delayed for eight years thanks to Goodfellas, the project was revived when Mike Newell agreed to take on the film and, ironically, he hired his own Lefty, nicknamed ‘The Butcher’, who scouted locations and brokered research meetings with Italian gangs. Newell was later to say the filming bore comparison to Four Weddings And A Funeral, claiming both English gentry and Cosa Nostra have a similar idiom (‘suggestion is everything’).

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production details
USA | 127 minutes | 1997

Director: Mike Newell
Writer: Paul Attanasio (from the book by Joe Pistone and Richard Woodley)

cast
Johnny Depp as Donnie Brasco / Joseph D. ‘Joe’ Pistone
Al Pacino as Benjamin ‘Lefty’ Ruggiero
Michael Madsen as Sonny Black
Bruno Kirby as Nicky
James Russo as Paulie
Anne Heche as Maggie Pistone
Zeljko Ivanek as Tim Curley
Brian Tarantina as Bruno
Rocco Sisto as Richard ‘Richie’ Gazzo
Zach Grenier as Dr. Berger
Gerry Becker as Agent Dean Blandford FBI
Robert Miano as Sonny Red
Paul Giamatti as FBI Technician
Gretchen Mol as Sonny’s Girlfriend
Tim Blake Nelson as FBI Technician

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Alastair James is the editor in chief for Memorable TV. He has been involved in media since his university days. Alastair is passionate about television, and some of his favourite shows include Line of Duty, Luther and Traitors. He is always on the lookout for hot new shows, and is always keen to share his knowledge with others.

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