Here at last was Scorsese’s first collaboration with another Hollywood heavyweight, Jack Nicholson. Both the director and the star made quite a splash on American movies during the ‘70s and between them have garnered a huge amount of Academy Award nominations. So does this remake of the excellent Hong Kong thriller, Infernal Affairs, deserve to be up there with the best of their work? Hell yes.
They both play up to what they do best. Scorsese returns to the crime genre that he has made his own in stylish classics, Goodfellas, Casino and Mean Streets while Nicholson returns to the deliciously hammy but dangerous villains of The Shining, Batman and Witches of Eastwick.
Nicholson is great, he is a complete scene-stealer as the repulsive, murderous gang leader who rules Little Boston with a heavy hand. However this is an ensemble film and whilst Nicholson chews the scenery with glee, the main thrust of the film comes from the complex story that follows Leonardo DiCaprio’s undercover cop and Matt Damon’s corrupt cop. It’s a preposterous movie style plotline that is played completely stone cold straight and given credibility by the excellent cast and Scorsese’s absolute commitment to the film.
DiCaprio’s current rise to becoming one of Hollywood’s finest actors definitely started around here with this impressive performance as the troubled cop who is constantly having to look over his shoulder. Damon is impressive in a rare villain role and his handsome front covers up his deceit. Meanwhile Mark Wahlberg, Alec Baldwin, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga and Ray Winstone provide excellent support, bristling with energy whenever they are on screen. It’s like every actor has raised their game for Scorsese and they all get moments to shine. It was a surprise that Wahlberg was the only one who managed to snatch a nomination but it is well deserved and he performs with gusto as the hard-edged, take no nonsense and aggressive detective.
Scorsese is now so good at his game that he can completely nail this type of film. It’s an intense film that is full of intense set-pieces, stylish direction, hard-edged violence and of course a killer soundtrack. This was the film that finally got Scorsese the Oscar, whether it be his best film will certainly provoke debate but as I see it, it’s certainly Top 5.