Goodfellas v The Departed
As far back as we can remember, we’ve always wanted to do a Martin Scorsese movie battle. Swearing, shouting, shooting and Gimme Shelter by The Rolling Stones – it’s all here. Read the mother****ing arguments and decide. Warning: this battle may contain some bad language. You think that intro’s funny? Funny how?!
Ross McD: Goodfellas
You’re a **in’ mumbling stuttering little ****. You know that?
Any idea where The Depaahted is set? Did you want to say ‘Boston’, but found yourself saying ‘Bwaah-stin’ instead? Don’t worry, it’s completely natural. It’s just the body’s way of excreting excess ham. The Depaahted is indeed set in Bwaah-stin, where Ire-ish criminals do more than sit around all day drinkin’ cups of cwaah-ffee. The Depaahted also contains more ham than Babe, Babe 2: Pig In The City, and Babe 3: Pigs In Space put together.
Don’t get me wrong, The Departed is good fun, but therein lies its problem – it’s probably too much fun. It’s hilarious. Try sitting through it without breaking your sh*te laughing at the comical overacting, the shamelessly gratuitous use of foul language and that delicious vowel-crammed Bwaah-stin accent. If you look closely, or even casually glance sideways, you’ll notice old hands Sheen, Baldwin and Nicholson struggling to refrain from grinning whenever someone is spewing dialogue.
Goodfellas is Scorsese’s masterpiece. Everybody knows The Departed’s Best Picture Oscar was just a pity nod from the Academy, ashamed of itself for overlooking Goodfellas in favour of Kevin Costner’s custom-built awards schmaltz Dances With Wolves.
Goodfellas is probably the greatest crime drama ever filmed. The characters are engrossing and terrifying at the same time. Ray Liotta’s Henry Hill may end up being a violent junkie drug-dealing adulterer, but somehow we root for him the whole way through. He represents the scum that plagues our real-life criminal underworlds, but thanks to Scorsese’s masterful direction we are behind Hill to the end. Even when he gets away with everything and is offered a clean slate, we still don’t resent him when the ungrateful pr*ck pretty much calls the audience a bunch of schnooks. Unlike The Departed, there is no way you would dare call Goodfellas funny.
While Jack Nicholson’s Frank Costello is the cuddliest baddie since the Gopher from Caddyshack, Joe Pesci’s Tommy DeVito is one of cinema’s most terrifying creations. We silently wince and pray that Billy Batts doesn’t insult the psychotic Tommy, but sadly for him he ignores our whispered pleas and tells him to get his f*ckin shinebox instead. Tommy’s not-quite-proportional retribution has even the most hardy of cinema-goers squirming in their seats.
Unfortunately, if Pesci had asked audiences his ‘funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you?’ question after they had sat through his annoying turns in Home Alone and the Lethal Weapon movies, he would have been greeted with a resounding ‘no’. But his pitbull-like Oscar-winning performance in Goodfellas is certainly the peak in a varied career.
At least Pesci’s character in Home Alone had some lines that were relevant to the film. It was actually Ross McG himself who theorised that Mark Wahlberg was never actually handed a script for The Departed: rather he was asked what he thought of certain cast members while a secret camera captured it all.
Overall, The Departed is as much a proper crime drama as Goodfellas is a homoerotic love story.
Ross McG: The Departed
I’m the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy
Poor Leonardo DiCaprio. He didn’t get the memo ahead of shooting The Departed. Alec Baldwin got it. Mark Wahlberg got it. Jack Nicholson didn’t really need to get it, but he got it. Ditto Ray Winstone. Heck, even Matt Damon got it. The memo said this: ‘Don’t worry about acting in this one, fellas – I want ham and plenty of it. Yours, Marty.’
The Departed may have finally garnered Martin Scorsese with an Oscar for Best Director, but what the Academy forgot to mention is that it was the first comedy to win Best Picture since Annie Hall almost 30 years previously. In among everybody killing everybody else, The Departed is one of the funniest films you will ever see. Baldwin grabbing his balls? Wahlberg chewing the scenery walls? Nicholson and Damon in a porno theatre with only a giant dildo between them? This ain’t acting but it sure is a riot.
And into the middle of all this drops little Leo. Poor little Leo likes to act. And thank God he does. He is scintillating in The Departed – his performance elevates the movie from dirty cop comedy to weighty dirty cop comedy. It is a subtle portrayal that should belong in a different film (one without Marky Mark) but instead it brings a much-needed extra dimension. Because of Leo, the movie’s fantastic ending has an emotional punch to go along with the plethora of punch lines.
The problem with Goodfellas is there is no Leo. There is De Niro (the old Leo) but it’s auto-De Niro. There is Pesci, and his Tommy DeVito is undoubtledy entertaining, but it’s the kind of overbearing scene-hogging performance that swallows everything else around it and ends up cartoonish. The fact that he sullied it five years later by playing pretty much the same character in the pointless Casino takes something of the shine from Goodfellas’ shoes.
The film is undoubtedly a stylistic triumph but where is the heart? It’s hard to invest in a bunch of greaseballs who beat up women, snort coke and spout mob clichés all day. But hey, budda bing, what ya gonna do? Watch The Departed, that’s what. Its equally dislikeable bunch of bent cops and twisted robbers are offset by having a character you actually want to see make it out alive. Thanks, Leo.
On first watch, it is Damon’s slimeball who steals the show. In repeat viewings though you just can’t keep your eyes off Leo. It’s a refreshingly selfless performance – the stirring straight man to a clan of foul-mouthed funny guys. It could just be the genuine shock in his eyes at wondering what the hell Jack is gonna do next, but it looks great on screen.
In Goodfellas, the rise of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) is enthralling but once he starts living his dream of becoming a gangster, the film has nowhere else to run. So the inevitable spiral into drugs and bad music follows – the mob really should learn to just skip the 80s altogether. The Departed is exhilarating from start to finish – its brilliant comedy Baaaahhhstan accents always guarantee a laugh, its epic 18-minute pre-credit sequence puts you in a grip you never escape from and the ending is just beautiful – as beautiful as lots of guys shooting each other in the head can be.
Goodfellas tries too hard, while The Departed is Scorsese at his most fun – as a credible police drama it makes Cop Land look like The French Connection – but as loud, over-the-top entertainment it is unsurpassable. The already-famous elevator sequence at the end is destined to go down as one of Scorsese’s best. There is nothing in Goodfellas that can match it. In fact, The Departed could be his best film. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe **** yourself…
VOTING CLOSED… RESULT:
Goodfellas: 67 %, The Departed: 33 %
GOODFELLAS TOO GOOD!