Donnie Brasco (film)

Donnie Brasco (film)
Donnie Brasco

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Mike Newell
Produced by Alan Greenspan,
Patrick McCormick
Written by Paul Attanasio
Based on Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia by
Joseph D. Pistone with Richard Woodley
Starring Al Pacino
Johnny Depp
Michael Madsen
Anne Heche
Bruno Kirby
Music by Patrick Doyle
Cinematography Peter Sovia
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
Release date(s) February 28, 1997
Running time

126 minutes

147 minutes (Extended cut)
Country  United States
Language English
Budget $35,000,000
Box office $124,909,762 [1]

Donnie Brasco is a 1997 crime drama film directed by Mike Newell, starring Al Pacino, Johnny Depp and Michael Madsen. It is loosely based on the real-life events of Joseph D. Pistone, an FBI agent who infiltrated the Bonanno crime family, one of the Mafia's Five Families based in New York City during the 1970s, under the alias "Donnie Brasco". The film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay.



The true story of an FBI undercover agent (Johnny Depp) who becomes Donnie Brasco, "The Jewel Man" to infiltrate one of the mob families. Donnie maneuvers his way into the confidence of aging hit-man, Lefty Ruggiero (Al Pacino) who trusts Donnie and vouches for him to the mob. But Lefty and Donnie become friends when they should be enemies. As Donnie moves deeper and deeper into the Mafia chain of command, he realizes he is not only crossing the line between federal agent and criminal but is also leading his friend Lefty to an almost certain death sentence.


Starting in 1978, FBI agent Joseph D. Pistone is assigned to infiltrate the New York City–based Bonanno crime family. Calling himself Donnie Brasco and posing as a jewel thief expert from Vero Beach, Florida, he befriends Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggiero, a low-level mob hit man whose personal life is in tatters, and Dominick "Sonny Black" Napolitano, the captain of Lefty's crew.

Lefty can't seem to make enough money, his son is a drug addict and he is continually passed over for promotion to a higher position within the crime family. He continually reminds Brasco of his growing disillusionment about having spent 30 years in the Mafia (and killing 26 people), with little to show for it.

In Donnie, at least, Lefty sees a young protégé who might be able to succeed where he failed. He takes Donnie under his wing. Donnie quickly becomes accepted by the other family members, as an "associate" (the lowest Mafia rank describing people who have criminal ties to the Mafia but are not actual members) and is later nearly officially inducted into the mob as a "made man."

The longer Pistone plays the role of a gangster, the more he finds himself actually becoming Donnie Brasco during his rare off-duty hours. His long absences and change in personality drive a wedge between Pistone and his wife and three children. Meanwhile, the slightest mistake in his performance as a mobster could result in death to him and his family.

In addition, Pistone has come to regard Lefty as a close and trusted friend. He knows that when the day finally comes that the FBI arrests his mob associates, he will be ending Lefty's life as surely as if he himself had killed him.



Donnie Brasco received mostly positive reviews. Entertainment Weekly called it a "wonderfully dense, clever, and moving gangland thriller," and gave it an A–, also praising Paul Attanasio's screenplay as "a rich, satisfying gumbo of back stabbing, shady business maneuvers, and mayhem."[2]

The film currently has an 87% positive review rating on, with 45 "fresh" reviews and 7 "rotten."[3] Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times gave it three and a half stars out of four.[4] Siskel and Ebert gave Donnie Brasco two thumbs up.[5] Peter Travers of the Rolling Stone praised the film, saying that "Donnie Brasco is one terrific movie."[6] Mike LaSalle from the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film a positive review and said that Donnie Brasco was "a first class Mafia thriller."[7] Metacritic cites that the film has a generally favorable 76/100 positive reviews, while the user rating is 8.3.[8]

Critics praised Depp's performance especially: a review hailed Depp's performance as "sensational."[9] New York Magazine called him "graceful" and found his acting highly believable: "We can believe that the mob might take him for a tough, ambitious young hood—he has the wariness and the self-confidence that creates an aura."[10]

According to Charles Taylor, writing in, both Pacino and Depp are "in top form"; remarking on Pacino's frequent cooperations with younger actors (Sean Penn, John Cusack), Taylor called Donnie Brasco "the best in this series of duets" and singled out Pacino's skills: "His final scene is all the more heartbreaking for the economy of gesture and feeling he brings it. It's an exit that does justice to both the actor and the role, and it leaves an ache in the movie."[9] Entertainment Weekly reserved its highest praise for Pacino: "If Donnie Brasco belongs to any actor, though, it's Al Pacino."[2]

American Film Institute Lists

Box office

The movie grossed $41,909,762 in the US, and an estimated $83,000,000 internationally.[13]

Academy Award nominations

The film was nominated for an Academy Award in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay.

See also


  1. ^ "Donnie Brasco (1997)". Box Office Mojo. 1997-04-11. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  2. ^ a b Gleiberman, Owen (1997-03-17). "Rev. of Donnie Brasco (1997)". Entertainment Weekly.,,286975,00.html. Retrieved 2009-12-21. 
  3. ^ "Donnie Brasco". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2010-02-13. 
  4. ^ "Donnie Brasco". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2010-06-07. 
  5. ^ "Donnie Brasco". At the Movies (1982–1990 TV series). Retrieved 2010-06-07. [dead link]
  6. ^
  7. ^ Mike LaSalle (February 28, 1997). "Guns and Roses / Pacino, Depp mob thriller `Donnie Brasco' adds love triangle to the payoff". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2011-06-19. 
  8. ^ "Donnie Brasco". Metacritic. Retrieved 2011-06-19. 
  9. ^ a b Taylor, Charles (1997-03-28). "Donnie Brasco: With Al Pacino and Johnny Depp in top form, "Donnie Brasco" is smarter than the average mob movie.". Retrieved 2009-12-21. 
  10. ^ Denby, David (1997-03-17). "Movies: The Sting". New York Magazine: pp. 55–56. Retrieved 2009-12-21. 
  11. ^ AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes Nominees
  12. ^ AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  13. ^

External links

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