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With an all star cast featuring Al Pacino, Johnny Depp, Anne Heche and Michael Madsen, director Mike Newell (Three Weddings and a Funeral) brings the true-life story of FBI agent Joe Pistone who penetrated a branch of the Bonanno Mafia family. Pistone (Depp) befriends Lefty Ruggiero(Pacino) who has worked for the Bonnano family for years. With that relationship, Pistone manages to form a network of friendships with the Mafia family. In the meantime, Pistone’s family life is crumbling as he delves deeper into the lifestyle of a man involved in the Mafia. Will he be able to perform his job and save his family, or will he be forced to make a choice between his natural family or his undercover Mafia family.

Donnie Brasco: Special Edition
“Donnie Brasco” is a fantastic film and should definitely be considered in the lot of Mafia films that are outstanding. Al Pacino is fantastic as the Lefty Ruggiero who has devoted years of his life to the Bonnano family and is continually looked over to become a made man. Johnny Depp is equally impressive as Joe Pistone, the undercover FBI agent who helped bring down the Bonnano family.

This is a fantastic film that is suspenseful and funny due to the performances of Pacino and Depp. In a supporting role, Anne Heche makes a turn as Depp’s alienated wife, raising their children alone while Pistone is away on his undercover operations. What makes this film a stand out from other mobster films is the demonstration of how an undercover agent lives. The pressures of trying to not only infiltrate the Mafia syndicate, but also maintain a balance for family without trying to be consumed by the life of crime.

Donnie Brasco: Special Edition was transferred in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen and looks absolutely stellar. It appears as though the original print that was used in this transfer was pristine, as I was not able to notice any speckles, scratches or pixelation. Columbia TriStar should be commended for this fine transfer.

This film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.0 in English and Dolby 2.0 Surround in English, French and Spanish. In addition to the crisp clean look, its audio options are also great. The dialogue came through clear and was not drowned out by the music track. The surrounds were also exceptional which add a great deal of authenticity to the film. It’s been a while since I actually watched a film on DVD that did not seem to have some kind of flaw on its audio track. With this one, I was unable to locate a single flaw.

Donnie Brasco: Special Edition
Donnie Brasco: Special Edition is one of those DVD’s that is labeled a “special edition”, however, I was a bit disappointed in the amount of extras. Granted, there are some great special features that would merit this film to be labeled “special”, however, I was expecting more.

First, there is an audio commentary by director Mike Newell. This is probably one of the best commentaries I have ever heard. Newell, who hails from England, is extremely familiar with his “American” material and that only adds to his commentary. I think he could be labeled an “actor’s director” as he comments about Pacino’s performance, costumes, and sincerely coming off as a man who appreciates his film. Newell did a large amount of research before tackling the subject of the American Mafia... and it is obvious that it served him and the film well.

Next there are five deleted scenes, of which Newell provides a commentary. These scenes are presented in full-frame and give some insight into some of the scenes that appeared to have been cut short in the final cut of the film.

Two documentaries, a 23-minute featurette called “Donnie Brasco: Out of the Shadows” features an interview with the real Joe Pistone and a seven-minute featurette that is extremely promotional in tone and doesn’t have a lot of replay value. However, both are informative. And “Out of the Shadows” seemed to be the most interesting to me because of the interview with the real Pistone.

Also featured is an isolated score track, a photo gallery, the theatrical trailer, three “bonus” trailers, talent files on the director and actors, production notes and DVD-ROM weblinks.

Donnie Brasco: Special Edition
This is a fantastic film that should not be missed! When released in theaters, it didn’t stick around too long and I think partly because it was marketed wrong. In either case, giving “Donnie Brasco” a chance won’t disappoint you. As usual, Pacino is fantastic and Depp shows us once again that he is a diverse actor who consistently takes diverse roles. The video and audio of this DVD are also flawless, some of the best I have seen. Despite my expectations in additional extras, there is plenty here to satisfy any DVD aficionado.