Oscar 2006: Scorsese's The Departed

Scorsese obviously likes to work with the same actors. In the first two decades of his career, he enjoyed one of the most fruitful collaborations in film history with Robert De Niro (“Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” and the Oscar-wining “Raging Bull”)

Over the past few years, Scorsese has professionally bonded with Leonard DiCaprio, first in “Gangs of New York,” and then in “The Aviator,” which earned DiCaprio his first lead Oscar nomination as Howard Hughes.

Star and director have talked at length about the level of comfort and trust between them, which hopefully will yield positive results in their third teaming, “The Departed,” one of the high-profile movies of the year (slated for October release).

This moody and violent fable, loosely based on the brilliant Hong Kong film, “Infernal Affairs,” which was a huge commercial hit internationally but barely seen in the U.S., promises to be more in the vein of Scorsese's classic crime dramas, “Taxi Driver,” “GoodFellas,” and “Casino.”

Will it finally bring the directing Oscar to Scorsese, who has become the perennial bridesmaid and, next to Hitchcock (who was nominated five times but never won), the greatest losers in the Academy's history

This remake of the 2002 police thriller Infernal Affairs concerns an undercover cop (DiCaprio) who infiltrates the Mob and a gangster (Damon) who penetrates the police, thus dealing with issues of ethics, double identity, loyalty and betrayal. The yearn is set in present-day Boston, where the mob is run by depraved kingpin (Jack Nicholson)

The movie shot for over 90 days, using Beantown for some exteriors but mostly in Brooklyn, due to tax breaks. Not to worry: Most of “Mean Streets,” which is set in New York's Little Italy, was shot in Los Angeles.

Screenwriter is William Monahan, who scribed last year Ridley Scott's disappointing historical epic, “Kingdom of Heaven” with Orland Bloom. Monahan translated the narrative from a tough Hong Kong saga to a gritty Irish-Catholic-American milieu.

The Nicholson's role, due to the actor's stature, was small in the original picture, but is said to be expanded (and may qualify for Supporting Oscar considerations). This is Nicholson first work for Scorsese, so we should expect fireworks and other unexpected delights.

It's hard to think of a better male cast in any American movie this year. Headed by DiCaprio, Damon, and Nicholson, the ensemble also includes Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, and last but not least Vera Farmiga, who last year made strong impression as the recovering drug-addict in “Down to the Bone,” for which she won the Los Angeles Film Critics Actress Award.