Donnie Brasco

7.72 h 6 min1997X-RayR
Al Pacino and Johnny Depp head an all-star cast in this brilliant gangland thriller about an undercover FBI agent who befriends a hitman to gain entry to the mob.
Mike Newell
Al PacinoJohnny DeppBruno Kirby
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Michael MadsenJames RussoAnne Heche
Mark JohnsonBarry LevinsonLouis DigiaimoGail Mutrux
TriStar Pictures
R (Restricted)
Content advisory
Violencealcohol usesmokingfoul languagesexual content
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4.7 out of 5 stars

4328 global ratings

  1. 81% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 12% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 4% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 2% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

joel wingReviewed in the United States on October 4, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Cost of undercover life and the cut throat life in the mafia
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Donnie Brosco is based upon a true story of an FBI agent that infiltrated a mafia family in New York City during the 1970s. It stars Johnny Depp as Brosco, Al Pacino as Lefty who brought Brosco into the family, and Michael Madsen as Sonny the head of the family. The movie is about the cost of undercover work.

Most of the movie is about the relationship between Brosco and Lefty. Lefty befriends him, brings him into the family, and acts as his mentor and protector. The two form a real bond, which will cause problems for Brosco later on because he’s a cop and his job is to get everyone he knows in the family arrested.

Undercover work causes other problems for Brosco as well. He can never see his family which causes great problems with his wife and little kids. There are many times when he feels like he will be found out and get killed by the family. It’s a very stressful experience.

Another part of the film is about the mafia lifestyle. Family members, made men, the fear that members have of getting whacked, cutting up bodies, etc. are all touched on. Many of these types of films have been accused of glorifying the mafia lifestyle. This movie definitely doesn’t do that.
8 people found this helpful
Mike PowersReviewed in the United States on February 6, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
A fascinating look at the lower echelons of organized crime, and the FBI agent who infiltrated the Mafia...
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I've long been a fan of mobster movies, and I've long thought of "Donnie Brasco" as one of the more fascinating films in this genre. This is because it's based on a true story.

"Donnie Brasco" stars Al Pacino and Johnny Depp, and was directed by Mike Newell ("Four Weddings and a Funeral"), It tells the story of FBI Special Agent Joseph D. Pistone (played by Johnny Depp), who successfully infiltrated one of New York's great Mafia families in the late 1970s, and spent six years undercover, gathering vital intelligence that was used by the U.S. Justice Department to severely diminish the Mafia's power throughout the country. Posing as Donnie Brasco, a jewel thief, Pistone was befriended by Benjamin "Lefty" Ruggerio (played by Al Pacino) , a low-level soldier in the Bonanno crime family. So successful was Pistone in penetrating the Bonanno family, that he was actually proposed to become a Mafia "made man" shortly before the FBI terminated "Operation Donnie Brasco" in 1981.

"Donnie Brasco" is certainly different than your "average" gangster flick. Instead of focusing on the rich and powerful Mafia crime lords, this film depicts life in the lower echelons of organized crime in New York, mostly through the eyes of "Lefty" Ruggerio. Here's a man who's at best an average "earner," but who's filled with ambition. He is frustrated when he's continually passed over for promotion by younger, less experienced men. When he befriends "Donnie Brasco" (Pistone), he quickly develops a strong fatherly affection for the younger man. For his part, Donnie Brasco becomes so emotionally entangled with the people he's investigating (especially Ruggerio) that he begins to lose sight of why he's there: to help bring these criminals to justice.

"Donnie Brasco" is a reasonably accurate portrayal of Pistone's experiences within New York's Mafia. It is very well acted, with especially brilliant performances from Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Michael Madsen, and Anne Heche. The language is raw, there are graphic scenes of violence, and a few liberties are taken with historical facts, (most notably the fate of Ruggerio), but none of that in any way detracts from the film's entertainment value. The Extended Cut of "Donnie Brasco" adds about 20 minutes to the film's runtime, with scenes added so seamlessly that I found it nearly impossible to tell the difference from the original theatrical release.

"Donnie Brasco" is an excellent film in every way. Highly recommended.
41 people found this helpful
Harriet BuchananReviewed in the United States on February 15, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Well done!
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Very well done with great acting! The mob violence was shocking, obviously needing to be stopped. But I loved the friendship that seemed to develop between Lefty and Donnie...I believe that was real on both sides, so I cried at the end. I think Joe Pistone was doing a difficult job, but as "Donnie", I think he became genuinely close to Lefty, and Johnny Depp does a great job with the conflicted feelings.

I've listened to the podcast, "Deep Cover: Donnie Brasco", and Joe Pistone spent 6 years undercover. The movie makes it seem only 2 or 3 years, and doesn't tell us what happened after they pulled him out. It probably would have been a letdown, far less dramatic, but so important.
One person found this helpful
Roger J. BuffingtonReviewed in the United States on May 30, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
Pretty good mob flick; based upon a true story
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Donnie Brasco is an undercover FBI agent whose assignment is to infiltrate the mob to gather evidence to bring various mob figures to justice. Overall it is an entertaining film, all the more so because it appears to be relatively authentic. Pacino and Depp turn in bravo performances. Maybe it's just me, but I found every scene in which Anne Hecht appeared to be tedious and tiresome; she just comes off as vapid and annoying. Other than that, I thought that the film moved along well, adhered to a linear storyline, and was entertaining. This movie is not at the level of "Goodfellas" or "Casino", but it is solid entertainment and worth the viewer's attention. RJB.
lou scrobognaReviewed in the United States on March 24, 2015
4.0 out of 5 stars
Donnie Brasco on Blu Ray ( Theatrical Edition )
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I bought Donnie Brasco when first released on DVD from Amazon and now again on Blu Ray for under eight dollars with not a bad picture transfer and no especial features just straight forward movie in 5.1 Dolby D , Donnie Brasco is an underworld crime film directed by Mike Newell starring Al Pacino - Jonny Depp - Michael Madsen - Bruno Kirby - James Russo and Anne Heche , The film is based on a true story about F.B.I undercover agent Joseph D. Pistone who grew up in the local neighbourhood , spoke Italian fluently and infiltrated the local Mafia : Bonanno crime family in New York during the 70's under Alias Donnie Brasco .

The movie is pretty good and so are the excellent performances by cast especially Al Pacino playing the part as lefty Ruggiero Mafia hit man and Jonny Depp as the undercover agent Joseph D. Pistone Alias Donnie Brasco , The DVD is just as good if not better with special features : directors commentary , exclusive featurette , Donnie Brasco out from the shadows , deleted scenes with optional commentary , original featurette , photo gallery , talent files , theatrical trailers and pamphlet that's not included in the Blu Ray than again for the price is Good value .
10 people found this helpful
JonathanReviewed in the United States on March 4, 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
A Brilliant and Immersive Gangster Drama....
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Donnie Brasco follows Joseph D. Pistone, or Donnie Brasco, an undercover FBI agent that successfully infiltrated the mafia; however, he eventually develops a genuine connection with the man who brought him in, Lefty. Donnie Brasco is a brilliant and immersive gangster drama.

The story is very engaging and genuinely intriguing; you learn a lot about the wiseguy lifestyle and the undercover operations of the FBI. There are many scenes that are extremely tense; I constantly asked, "how will Donnie get out of this one?!?" I really enjoyed the last 30 minutes of the film, especially when you realize how deep their connection was. Never a dull moment as the film masterfully blends immersive dialogue, intense situations, and some brutal violence throughout, with some comedy occasionally tossed in. Johnny Depp and Al Pacino have amazing performances; Al Pacino particularly kept a consistent and realistic character throughout. The film also has a great soundtrack.

The blu-ray of this film is excellent. The picture and sound quality are superb, considering the age of the film, and match the best prints around/recently released. This is the definitive version of this film.

Overall, Donnie Brasco is a must-watch for fans of gangster/crime dramas; in fact, it's a must-watch for film fans in general. A superb and immersive storyline, magnificent performances, and an excellent soundtrack, don't skip this film.

Donnie Brasco has strong violence and blood, and brief nudity.
6 people found this helpful
Abdulla M. Al QasimReviewed in the United States on June 8, 2011
4.0 out of 5 stars
I'm Just a Spoke on a Wheel!
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A great gangster / mafia movie with a high profile cast of actors. Unlike the benchmark of all mafia movies, The Godfather, which looks at the struggle at the top of the family, this movie looks at the trials, struggles and frustrations at the bottom of the criminal organization, mainly Lefty (Al Pacino's character) as well as Johnny Depp's character who is an undercover FBI agent who infiltrates the mafia and begins to have conflicting feelings and loyalties.

The thing that really captured me the first time I saw this movie was that it was a very well direct and solid production. However, the one thing that makes me keep watching it over and over again has to be Lefty's character and what he has to go through... he is probably one of the most hard working members of the crew but is the first one to be overlooked and his personal life is no picnic either... even though he is a criminal, you will find yourself sympathizing with him and his situation. Especially when he begins to complain about it and how he is the one who is always being swept to the side, especially in the scene where he tries to meet the boss of Miami... that, for me was a real heartbreaking scene. You can't help sympathizing with Lefty even more because this movie was based on a true story.

I guess now Al Pacino has played mafia characters at the two extreme ends of the mafia hierarchy from family head to solider.

Johnny Depp's character also gained my sympathy where it got to the point where he was struggling to balance his home and family with his own sympathy for Lefty and his duty towards his job.

I guess what I like about this movie is that it looks at gangsters and mafiosos as people in the end and that they are not devoid of their feelings and hardships... it is as if the director is trying to portray gangsters as people who are just trying to make a living (in their own different way) and are no different from your average working Joe who has to put up with the usual office politics and has to play the corporate game to get a promotion or a raise and meets with great disappointment and frustration..

Overall, a great movie with great suspense, however does require close attention to the dialogue and events of the movie to fully appreciate the plot.

"you said it yourself, you don't get uped, you're always looking over your shoulder... get out of this life is all I'm saying!" Donnie Brasco, A.K.A. Joe Pistone, A.K.A. Johnny Depp.
4 people found this helpful
KonreiReviewed in the United States on June 24, 2009
4.0 out of 5 stars
"I'm not like them---I am them."
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How did I miss this film for twelve years? As a Pacino fan, a Johnny Depp fan, and a mobster movie addict, it's nothing short of amazing that I only watched DONNIE BRASCO for the first time this week.

My only complaint about DONNIE BRASCO is that it's too short and light. Another fifteen minutes of screen time would have deepened the characters immensely. DONNIE BRASCO doesn't do a great job of capturing the ambience of the late 70s, but it's a relatively minor flaw in an otherwise impressive picture. Overall, with its renditions of petty thievery, (breaking open parking meters for change), cheap shot extortion (putting muscle on Mom-and-Pop corner grocery stores for a few hundred bucks a week) and constant pointless but violent arguments, the timbre of DONNIE BRASCO reflects [[ASIN:B000286RP2 Mean Streets]] more than [[ASIN:B0018CMJSU The Godfather]].

There's no romance in DONNIE BRASCO's Mafia. Depp plays Federal Agent Joe Pistone, who is tasked with infiltrating the Bonnanno Family in late 1970s New York City. Using the alias "Donnie Brasco," Pistone befriends low-level torpedo Lefty Ruggerio (Al Pacino), who is permanently rooted near the bottom of the Family food chain. The dynamic "Brasco" however, soon attracts the attention of crew boss Sonny "Black" Napolitano (Michael Madsen), who begins moving Brasco (and himself) up through the ranks. A disappointed Lefty is left behind, although Brasco/Pistone tries mightily to maintain his links with Lefty if for no other reason than they've become friends.

The strain of leading his double life puts Pistone at terrible risk. His marriage collapses and his personal family life becomes a shambles. He begins to adopt street talk, to hit his wife, and to put his Family before his family. He is forced into committing minor crimes as part of his cover, and assists in chopping up and burying the bodies after a hit. He's recognized by a law-and-order colleague whom he punches out in order to protect himself. Still, there is much in the camaraderie of the Family that Pistone appreciates. Eventually, as he tells his wife, "I'm not like them---I am them." Just as he's about to become a made guy, the FBI swoops in and arrests everyone, shutting down his undercover operation.

Pistone's activities send roughly one hundred mobsters to jail, and earn him a medal, a commendation, and a $500.00 bonus check, and a deep ambivalence toward his work and his life.

After watching DONNIE BRASCO, I found myself questioning whether, given the crummy quality of the mob as portrayed, the risk and expense of breaking up "organized crime" was at all worth it. It seems like a lot of effort for a few dozen yards of chintz.
One person found this helpful
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