Donnie Brasco (18) 127 mins 1* at *
Although it sounds remarkably similar to Scorsese's GoodFeIlas, Paul Attanasio's screenplay (adapted from an ex-FBI man's real-life testimony) for this superior crime movie predates it by a year. Astonishingly, the film has been in development since 1989.
Four Weddings And A Funeral director Mike Newell, one imagines, got the gig because he’s as much of an outsider as Johnny Depp’s central character, a federal agent who gains the confidence of mob underling Al Pacino as part of a major surveillance operation in late 705 New York. Through the eyes of the undercover officer, we learn the language, rituals, and economic realities of being a made man, as Pacino fascinatingly takes us through the entry procedures. Indeed, it’s only once Depp's 'Donnie Brasco’ overcomes the suspicions of goons like Michael Madsen and Bruno Kirby and makes his way into the organisation, that the film dissipates its impact by spreading its energies too thinly.
The growing bond between Depp and Pacino is set against the lawman’s necessary betrayal of trust in the offing, while the line between right and wrong is shaded by financial temptation and Depp’s increasing implication in illicit activity. The whole question of identity comes up for grabs as his darkening personality threatens an already strained marriage (excellent Anne Heche in the thankless wife role).
Much of this is, however, pretty familiar fare. The various gangland slayings, gambling operations and polyester shirts are so much part of the celluloid territory, they’re not fresh anymore, and Newell seems particularly stiff-jointed when he has to bend to the
Pit of despair: the miners head home in Margaret's Museum
Criminal codes: Johnny Depp and Al Pacino in Donnie Brasco
lure of decadence.
What he is good at, though, is threading a gentle vein of unexpected comic observation through the proceedings, especially when it comes to cash- strapped Pacino's downhome domestic arrangements. This in turn gives credibility to the emotional links formed in the trust he shares with Depp as a kind of surrogate son. So although the movie isn't quite as moving as you think it’s going to be, at least the filmmakers are ringing the changes on generic expectations. It's the same, but different. And that surely means something. (Trevor Johnston)
I General release from Fri 2 May
Impressed, but love wms the day. Neil
has to make JLlSl one promise —- never
to work down the mines which took
Margaret's brother and father. And, l'm
sure you can have a Wild stab at the rest
Yes, the scenery is lovely and, yes, the
music is evocative, but the feeling
persists that the story could have been
squeezed into a half hour, shown very
late on Channel 4 and no one (euld
feel they were being shortchanged On
the plus side is the darkly comic role
played by Kate Nelligan and an
understated performance by Kenneth
" u Welsh - impressively eVil as Windom
Earle in Twin Peaks - as the tragic.
buffoon Uncle Angus. And the final
Margaret's Museum (15) 95 mins 1: 1"
Like her character, Helena Bonham Carter is hellbent on a mission, She is apparently keen to relinquish her role as the archetypal English rose and take on more complex parts, which rely on her to do a bit more than merely look fragile, mad and radiant when called upon Unfortunately, no matter how hard she tries, she can do little more than do iust that. Maybe now she’s JUSI
26 THE usr 2«lS May 1997
beginning to get the hang of it
Based on short stories by Sheldon Currie, Margaret’s Museum is set in the late 1940s in a wrndswept and isolated corner of Nova Scotia Gaelic is still spoken and the mines pioVide both danger and the daily bread Into Margaret MacNeil’s sorrowful existence comes Neil Currie (Clive Russell), whose main attributes are his lumbering SGllSlllVlly and an ability to get a tune out of the bagpipes Margaret’s mother (Kate Nelligan) isn’t
scene actually come closes to making up for the 'twists' in the plot ,which could be flashed on screen ten minutes before delivery for all the surprise they hold
And those accents Oh, dear Quite where Ms Bonham Carter’s comes from is a total mystery -— though somewhere between Brooklyn and Ballymena is a fair estimate (Brian Donaldson)
I Edinburgh Film/rouse from Fri 2 May. Glasgow Film Theatre from Fri 23 Mav
(12) 123 mins *iri
Moll Flanders, the naughty but nice heroine of Daniel Defoe’s classic novel, has enjoyed a raised profile of late since her recent dramatisation in the popular television series. In light of this, it is only to be expected that Moll Flanders the movie will represent a similarly devilish woman for whom audiences can lower their moral standards.
Director Pen Densham’s film revolves around the character of Flora (Aisling Corcoran), a young brat plucked from an orphanage by a stranger called Hibble (Morgan Freeman), to be taken to a mysterious benefactor. On the way, Hibble reads her the diaries of her mother, Moll Flanders (Robin Wright), a woman who survwes poverty by living on her wits. Featuring prostitution, blackmail, theft and love, the outrageous action-packed stOry gradually weaves its way into Flora's heart as she hears of her mother's quest for security and happiness.
Inspired by, rather than adapted from, Defoe's story, Mol/ Flanders does not strictly adhere to the original text. While Defoe’s novel presents Moll’s narrative in the first person, Densham's version tells her tale through the mouth of Hibble. Sadly, this method of narration numbs the effect of Moll's provocative character. For anyone who has read the book or seen the TV drama, calling this film Moll Flanders is somewhat misleading. If one is expecting to encounter the Wicked thrill of becoming a criminal's confidante, then this mowe Will disappomt. It is Flora who enioys the priVilege of being addressed by this admirably ungodly woman, while the audience recewe her story second- hand.
However, as the rags-to-riches tale of an 18th century woman, Moll Flanders certainly entertains. Excellent performances from Freeman, Stockard Channing as the villainous Mrs Allworthy, and John Lynch as Fielding the artist, prowde an exotic selection of characters, while a patchwork of colourful episodes illustrate the hardships, dangers and cultural ambitions facmg a woman in the Age of Enlightenment. (Beth Williams)
I Selected release from Fri 9 May.
STAR RATINGS * r r it * Outstanding * t a» at Recommended * 1k it Worth a try it * So-so t Poor