Two men who share similar backgrounds pursue very different courses in their lives. One (Leonardo DiCaprio) goes under cover and joins the Irish Mafia, unbeknownst to the rest of the police force. The other (Matt Damon), a member of the mafia, joins the police force and plays the good cop while helping the Mafia (whose leader is played by Jack Nicholson) get away with their illegal actions. Things start to get interesting when both cops realize there's a mole in the other's operations.
Entertainment Value - A
Very intense and violent. I did watch the TV version and liked it, though I don't know that I'd care if I saw it again. The performances were great, though you can't expect any less from the cast of actors.
Moral Value - Failure to Communicate? - 2
The story presents you with an unconventional good versus evil scenario; the roles of each seem really twisted. You have a good cop (DiCaprio) undercover with the bad guys, and a bad cop (Damon) undercover with the good guys. Of course you root for the good cop all the way through the show, hoping he gets out of the crazy situation he's in; but when the end came I wound up feeling rather empty when the good guy gets killed by the bad cop and the bad cop gets exonerated. The only restitution that occurs is that the bad cop ends up getting what's coming to him because the good cop made sure to cover his bases and had other good cops informed of what was going on.
The main moral dilemma I saw was whether or not the bad cop was really bad enough to do whatever it took to keep his name clean, even if it meant killing someone else, or if he might actually do something right and help the good cop out (even though it might mean his own skin if the mafia found out).
Once the good guy was killed off I found myself thinking that if the movie ends like this (the good guy dies after spending the entire movie fighting to stay alive) the movie is morally bad. But why? Does whether the good side wins or loses really make a movie good or bad? What does it mean to accurately portray evil and to not advocate it? And if evil exists and triumphs, are there enough other messages that promote the Good, making it so that the whole movie isn't evil?
Take for instance the movie Chicago (to be reviewed soon), the only good guy in the movie gets trampled on and spit upon (figuratively) and we see two murderesses found not guilty and leading a life of fame and fortune at the end. Good did not "win" in this film, but it's quite clear that the the director/screenwriter was not advocating evil in any way, he was mocking society's shallowness and false sense of what's most important in life. We, in no way felt bad, after watching it. Some may think that the word "feel" is rather ambiguous, but I think we can all feel when something is good or bad. (If we can't, then it's probably time for some re-evaluating of who you are and if you stand for anything.)
Wahlberg's (the ex-cop that the good cop informed before he died) killing the bad cop at the end is understandable (he knew the crimes the bad cop had committed and was very much emotionally tied to the cop that died) but not morally acceptable. Was he any worse than Batman? His actions were purely out of revenge and not in accordance with the law. With all the evidence against the bad cop, he could have easily been taken care of through the judicial process. As mentioned in the review of the movie Gladiator, even when the righteous Maximus executes Commodus, he does so in a public arena; on a more minor level, even the Karate kid took his battle to an official arena. Is it ever OK to take justice into your own hands (excluding self-defense)?