Soothe your St. Patrick’s Day hangover or keep the party going with Saturday’s late night 35mm screening of “The Departed” at the Coolidge Corner Theatre.
It might be sacrilegious to point out that the definitive Boston Irish mob movie of our era was made by an Italian from Queens, but then Martin Scorsese films have always had an anthropological interest in tribalism. Whether he’s chronicling the wealthiest gangs of New York in “The Age of Innocence” or feudal Japan in last year’s “Silence,” most Scorsese pictures are about cloistered societies closing ranks to purge unwanted outsiders. Kind of sums up Old Southie in a nutshell, doesn’t it?
Adapted by Dorchester’s own William Monahan from the gripping 2002 Hong Kong thriller “Infernal Affairs,” “The Departed” keeps the story of a crooked cop (Matt Damon) and an undercover agent (Leonardo DiCaprio) hunting one another through a maze of secret alliances. But Monahan’s stroke of genius was to lay elements of the Whitey Bulger saga on top of this pulpy framework, with Jack Nicholson chewing scenery as a paranoid, half-mad mobster snitching to the FBI and suspecting everyone else must be a rat, too.
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What the movie gets right about Boston is the bluster. Monahan pens blistering arias of profanity and casual racism shot through with a mordant Irish gallows humor. The young stars give fine performances, but more convincingly close to home are the beefy, red-faced blowhards played by Alec Baldwin and Ray Winstone.
A job for hire, “The Departed” is one of Scorsese’s least soulful movies, yet perhaps his most conventionally entertaining. He jokes it’s the only one with a plot, though if anyone can explain what happened to those stolen microprocessors in the movie, we’re all ears. (What a great, self-deprecating wink that this Hollywood remake features a subplot about ripping off the Chinese.) Editor Thelma Schoonmaker paces the film like it’s strapped to a rocket — we’re already 19 minutes in and have covered 20 years’ worth of backstory before the title card even drops.
Scorsese peppers “The Departed” with sly visual gags. Blink and you’ll miss that when Vera Farmiga’s talking to boyfriend Damon about his impotence she’s eating a banana. In a tribute to Howard Hawks’ original 1932 “Scarface,” he features an “X” somewhere in the frame whenever someone’s about to get whacked. Watch the movie with this in mind and you’ll start to see them everywhere.
Like the rats.
If you go:
March 18 at 11:30 p.m.
Coolidge Corner Theatre
290 Harvard St., Brookline