You might be a cop. You might be an undercover agent. You might be a crime kingpin. Or a sexy psychiatrist. No matter who you are, it's like the Bob Dylan song says: "You gotta serve somebody."

In The Departed, Martin Scorsese's hyper-violent remake of the Hong Kong crime classic Infernal Affairs, everybody has secrets, agendas, and a willingness to pull the trigger. And underneath their carefully composed disguises, all of them are devoted to the service of somebody—either a criminal, a cop, the cause of justice, their family's honor, or their own selfish hearts.

In the background, we see the gleaming dome of a church—and it remains distant, glowing, and neglected. It raises the question: Is anyone here serving God?

As Scorsese explores the mean streets of South Boston, he finds the cops at war with an organized crime operation run by ruthless Irish-American thugs. And the farther he takes us into this conflict, the more we realize that both sides are thoroughly corrupt. Undercover operative Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio) is trying to get close to crime kingpin Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson), but the closer he gets, the more he must involve himself in reprehensible deeds. Meanwhile, one of Costello's fellow conspirators, Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) has crept up in the ranks of the Boston police to become a prominent investigator.

The Departed is a film of superior craftsmanship, with dialogue as jarring and relentless as the gunfire, cinematography that takes us on a tour of a shadowy underworld, editing that winds up the tension to almost unbearable levels, and some of the year's most compelling performances.

But the film falls short of greatness on several counts. First, Jack Nicholson's outrageous over-acting ...

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