The Netflix Top 10 is an absolute hotbed of so-so films. A lot of them, we've never even heard of, before the Netflix algorithm brought them to the attention of the world's entertainment-hungry masses. It's now almost a cliché to say that the top-rated movies on the streaming channel are 'not popular with critics', which is often a more diplomatic way of saying, 'It's crap and you won't remember anything about it, 10 minutes after it ends.'
Frequently this content isn't even especially popular with the people racking up all those viewing hours. The Rebel Wilson 'old woman pretends to be a high school girl but not in a creepy way' nostalgia movie Senior Year, has been watched for millions upon millions of hours, but seemingly largely by people who concluded, 'Well, that was fine; I didn't hate it. Now for some Taco Bell.' Reflecting this, the audience score for Senior Year is 53% on Rotten Tomatoes, although the critics' score is a somewhat harsher 27%.
Imagine my surprise, then, to find that the current UK Netflix top 10 includes a film that I think is actually good, and which even has Academy Awards to its name. Pretty shocking, right?
The Departed: officially arrived on Netflix
The film in question is Martin Scorsese's The Departed, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon and 'Marky' Mark Wahlberg, sadly without his 'funky bunch' on this occasion.
The Departed sits a little oddly in Scorsese's CV. It is a highly entertaining potboiler of a film, heavily based on the Hong Kong actioner Infernal Affairs. It's a movie which most Scorcese fans like a lot but wouldn't consider to be quite out of his very top drawer. That being said, it is also the film that he finally won the best director Oscar for, having been cruelly snubbed for several rather better films, most notably Goodfellas and Raging Bull. The 2006 film also won best picture at the same Academy Awards, and two more Oscar's for best editing and 'best adapted screenplay', whatever that is.
While it may not quite be an all-time classic, The Departed is a tense and thrilling undercover cop movie, pitting DiCaprio against mob kingpin Jack Nicholson and corrupt policemen who are meant to be on his side. Nicholson's acting in this couldn't be described as his most subtle work ever, but overall it's a great ensemble piece, and Scorcese directs the film with his customary aplomb. All of his trademarks are in place, from morally compromised characters to lashings of extreme violence and swearing.
The Departed is about as far removed from Senior Year as it's possible to get – it is very watchable throughout, but laughs and pratfalls are thin on the ground. Okay, I haven't actually watched Senior Year but I am assuming these films are just not all that similar, unless in her movie, Rebel Wilson is repeatedly betrayed and a sweary bloodbath ensues, with semi-hilarious consequences.
I have no idea why this movie has suddenly leapt up the rankings to sit at #5 in the UK Netflix top 10, but it's a pleasant and unusual surprise to actually be able to say 'That film that's mysteriously suddenly in the Netflix top 10? I can wholeheartedly recommend that one.'
No doubt by tomorrow, The Departed will have been replaced in the top 10 by a film called something like Oops, I Pooped My Pants, starring Katherine Heigel, Massive Impact with Gerard Butler or true-crime voyeurmentary series Killing for Viewing Hours. So let's enjoy it while it lasts.