In 2006, Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed” was an absolute revelation. Telling a bloody, foul-mouthed tale of gangsters and undercover cops, it provided visceral, popcorn thrills while earning four Academy Awards, including Best Picture. As Jack Nicholson’s Frank Costello would say: “They call that a paradox.”
Now, Warner Bros. and Amazon are teaming up to turn “The Departed” into a TV series, which either feels like a really great idea or a really awful one. In the spirit of the film’s duplicitous double-crossers, let’s take a look at both sides of the fence.
Pro: Internal Affairs
As any supporter of the project will surely point out, Scorsese’s film was itself a remake. The 2002 Hong Kong film “Internal Affairs” took place a long way from Boston, but told a similar story of one police officer who infiltrates a gangster’s empire, and another who secretly works for it. Like “The Magnificent Seven,” Scorsese’s film wasn’t the first version, just the most famous.
Television gives a story more time to breathe, and works particularly well with lengthy tales featuring many characters. Think “The Departed” can’t work as a TV show? Go tell that to the team behind “Fargo” as they prep Season 3.
Con: The actors
Think of the talent in the original film: DiCaprio, Damon, Nicholson, Wahlberg, as well as Martin Sheen, Ray Winstone, Vera Farmiga, Anthony Anderson and Alec Baldwin. Oh yeah, there was also some guy named Scorsese — who won the Oscar for Best Director — working the camera.
Not only is it extremely unlikely that any of those folks will have anything to do with this show, it seems twice as unlikely that the series could ever find actors with skills that are in the same ballpark. Honestly, rebooting “The Departed” is like buying a Major League Baseball team, then insisting that you’ll go find new players on your own.
Pro: Deep storylines
The opening of “Departed” gave us a glimpse of Matt Damon’s Colin Sullivan as a kid, falling under the spell of Costello; we saw DiCaprio’s Billy alongside Sullivan in the Academy, working their way up the ranks and beginning their careers. But, that was eight minutes of a 150-plus minute movie.
A “Departed” TV show could dive much deeper into the lives of these men before they passed their Detective Exams. Where Scorsese had to hurry up and get to the stars, the show could linger, giving us a deeper appreciation for the scope of the story.
Con: We already saw it
By the end of “The Departed,” everybody is either dead, imprisoned or nursing a blown cover. Unless you haven’t seen the movie, you already know where all these storylines end.
Would people be less likely to watch “Game of Thrones” if they had released the last episode first? It seems hard to argue otherwise.
Pro/Con: It’s a classic
It is hard to argue with the fact that “The Departed” is a triumph on so many levels. It’s a fun, brutal, edge-of-your-seat movie that blends artistry and entertainment in perfect measure.
If the Amazon series can achieve that, it would automatically become one of the best shows on TV. But those very same reasons are why this particular assignment — much like that of Leonardo DiCaprio’s Billy Costigan — could just as easily end in bloody failure.