Tuesday a classic American crime film was released on DVD. I don't think it's the best movie of the year, and I thought Martin Scorsese made a stronger impression in previous efforts (including 2004's The Aviator). But I'm pulling for the movie, Marty, screenwriter William Monahan, and Mark Wahlberg to take home the gold because -- for pure entertainment purposes -- The Departed is in a class all its own. I would argue that the biggest reason for the film's success is Monahan's tough-guy, no-nonsense script. And no one benefited more from the screenwriter's wicked ear for dialogue than Mark Wahlberg as Detective Dignam. Hey, Academy, since Eddie Murphy may well have screwed the pooch with Norbit, why not hand the Oscar to Wahlberg? I'll help make the case for the year's best supporting performance.
We've all worked with a handful of idiots throughout our lives. But it's the presumptuous ones that really get under your skin, isn't it? Just consider Detective Dignam's reaction to "Police Camera Tech" (note: expletives such as the "F" word will be replaced by the word "shampoo" in honor of the classic Saturday Night Live Raging Bull skit).
Police Camera Tech: Who the shampoo are you?
Dignam: I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy.
Ouch. Police Camera Tech guy is not going to come back from that one. Things actually get worse for Police Camera Tech guy when he incurs Alec Baldwin's wrath a little bit later. Thing is, Dignam wasn't even picking on the guy. The poor schmuck was asking for it. The next guy is just plain dumb. After Dignam tells a room full of cops his undercover agents are "out there like little Indians" and the present officers will never know who or where they are, "Police Flunky" has the nerve to ask if Jack Nicholson's Costello has been infiltrated.
Police Flunky: Do you have anyone in with Costello presently?
Dignam: Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe go shampoo yourself.
Everybody should have a friend like Dignam. He will not only have your back and never give you up, he will be sure he embarrasses the guy who so much as inquires about you. That isn't to say the guy is easy to live with. He's a prickly fellow and he isn't the most sympathetic chap in the world. Just consider the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio's Costigan is pleading to Wahlberg and Martin Sheen to use the mountain of evidence they have on Costello so he can get out of the dangerous undercover business. Sheen and Wahlberg know they need more evidence and let Leo know it.
Costigan: What are you waiting for, honestly? Do you want him to chop me up and feed me to the poor? Is that what you guys want?
Dignam: Yeah, that'll stick.
Wow. A real mother-shampooer, that Dignam can be. Sometimes, though, it's all an act. Sometimes Dignam is just pretending to be a hard-nosed tough guy and deep down he's got nothing but love for you. You just need to know how to talk to him. Like Alec Baldwin's Ellerby.
Ellerby: Go shampoo yourself.
Dignam: I'm tired from shampooing your wife.
Ellerby: How is your mother?
Dignam: Good, she's tired from shampooing my father.
What a wonderful sense of camaraderie they have. Well, this was my last-ditch effort to bring some more love to the man who played Dignam so brilliantly. Academy, I plead to you. Was there a more satisfying supporting cast member in any movie this year? I know you like Alan Arkin. I love Arkin back from the Popi days. And he's great in that overrated semi-indie flick. But we are talking about Detective Dignam here. I know, I know. You're giving it to Arkin anyway.- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Dre writes five times a week for Film.com, covering movies and DVD with his Floridian flare. E-mail him!