In the late 1970's, FBI agent Joe Pistone (Johnny Depp) is given an assignment to infiltrate a New York City Mafia family. Calling himself Donnie Brasco, and posing as a diamond expert, he befriends "Lefty Guns" Ruggiero (Al Pacino), a low-level mob hit man whose personal life is in tatters. Lefty can't seem to make any money, his son is a junkie, and he is continually passed over for promotion to a higher position within the Family. He continually reminds Brasco of his growing disillusionment about having spent 30 years in the Mafia (and killing 26 people), with little to show for it. But in Donnie, Lefty sees a young protege who might be able to succeed where he failed. He takes Donnie under his wing, and under Lefty's tutelage Donnie quickly becomes accepted by the other Family members, although he is never elevated above the rank of "associate" member (the lowest Mafia rank). But the longer Pistone plays the role of a gangster, the more he finds himself actually becoming Donnie Brasco during his rare off duty hours; this personality change drives a wedge between himself and his wife (Anne Heche) and three children. Eventually Pistone realizes that the slightest mistake in his performance as a mobster could mean a death sentence for himself and his family. In addition, Pistone has come to regard Lefty as a close and trusted friend. He knows that when the day finally comes that the FBI nails his mob associates, he'll be ending Lefty's life as surely as if he put a slug in his head himself.
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