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William ‘Billy’ Costigan Jr
Played By: Leonardo DiCaprioA South Boston Police Officer who is selected to become a mole in Frank Costello's organisation.
"You sit there with a mass murderer. A mass murderer. Your heart rate is jacked, and your hand... steady. That's one thing I figured out about myself in prison. My hand does not shake... ever."
- Anti-Hero: He has to do some really shady things while undercover, such as participating in murder.
- Boom, Headshot: How he was killed by Barrigan.
- Cultured Badass: He actually went to decent schools and got excellent grades as noted by Dignam and Queenan, he could actually have had a better career but he really wants to be a cop. He also quotes Nathaniel Hawthorne.
- Deadpan Snarker: Another defense mechanism to deal with the stress of being undercover.
- Didn't See That Coming: There's no way he could have anticipated being taken down like that. He called for backup by calling Brown, he mailed the evidence (making copies) and sent it to the police shrink but it takes a Giant Space Flea from Nowhere, a second mole, to take him out with no warning.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Right as Costigan is about to arrest Sullivan and be the hero, he is shot in the head completely out of nowhere.
- Expy: His undercover legend of being a former State trooper is analogous to the real-life story of Richard Marinick, a former State trooper who joined Whitey Bulger's gang.
- Foil: To Sullivan.
- Good Is Not Nice: He's quite abrasive, contrasting to the usually calm Sullivan.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: He's like this as the result of the stress of being a mole.
- The Hero: As the film's protagonist.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: He's utterly devastated when Queenan dies in front of him.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: His jerk behavior is due to the stress of being undercover within the organization of a murderous madman like Costello.
- The Mole: He's a mole for the Boston Police inside Costello's organization.
- No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Costigan is quite skilled at dishing these out at a moment's notice. It's one of the things that gets him noticed by Costello and his gang.
- Sanity Slippage: Due to the stresses of being undercover and then by Queenan's death.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: He utters the "F" word almost continually especially when he's really angry.
- Sixth Ranger Traitor: To Costello.
- Someone to Remember Him By: It's strongly implied that he is the father of Madolyn's unborn child.
- Surprisingly Sudden Death: He's killed by a shot to the head instantly by Barrigan and with no warning whatsoever.
- Unperson: When Sullivan erases all records of him being an undercover.
- Troubled, but Cute: According to Madolyn.
- Weapon of Choice: A Walther PPK semi-automatic pistol.
Staff Sergeant Colin Sullivan
Played By: Matt DamonA member of Frank Costello's criminal organisation sent to infiltrate the Massachusetts State Police.
- Asshole Victim: At the end of the film, thanks to Dignam.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Even though he's Costello's mole, he keeps a squeaky clean record to ascend and avoid suspicion.
- Boom, Headshot: Given to him by Dignam. He gives one to the Mole who whacked Costigan as well.
- Detective Mole: He's charged with finding the mole in the Boston police department - himself.
- Dirty Cop: He's Costello's mole inside the Massachusetts State Police.
- Disappeared Dad: Costello takes over.
- Dragon Ascendant: After Costello dies, Billy discovers that Sullivan is the mole inside the police that was working for the gangster and puts all his efforts to detain him.
- Evil Genius: For Costello.
- Expy: Of FBI Special Agent John Connolly, Whitey Bulger's inside man within law enforcement.
- Foil: To Costigan.
- Hired to Hunt Yourself: Tasked with finding Costello's mole: Himself.
- Jerkass: What he is at heart. Though he's genuinely a decent boyfriend to Madolyn, until she finds out that he's a mole, she doesn't consider not breaking up with him, even hoping to start a family with him with a child that may or may not be his.
- Karma Houdini: Actually averted. Sullivan thinks he got away from being discovered when Billy dies and frames the treason to Barrigan. Then Dignam waits for him in his apartment and kills him.
- Mole in Charge: When he takes over Queenan's unit.
- Professional Butt-Kisser: How the rest of the cops see him.
- Raised Catholic: Like most Irish-American kids. The Prolonged Prologue has a shot of a young Sullivan serving as an altar boy.note
- The Starscream: He ends up betraying and killing Costello after finding out Costello's an FBI informant and was ready to expose him to the feds.
- Ungrateful Bastard: To Costello.
- Villainous Breakdown: At the near end when he's caught by Costigan.
- Villain Protagonist: He has a great amount of screen time and character development as Billy, yet he is one of the main villains of the film.
- Wicked Cultured: As a young boy he gets a James Joyce reference and later discusses Freud seriously with a shrink. More to the point he wants to study law and apply himself and make it into Harvard, and maybe become legitimate.
Captain Oliver Charles Queenan
Played By: Martin SheenCostigan's handler in the Massachusetts State Police.
- Big Good: Along with Ellerby.
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Captain Smooth to Dignam's Sergeant Rough.
- Cool Old Guy: He's the nicest character in the movie.
- Defiant to the End: He dies without ever ratting Costigan out.
- Destination Defenestration
- Face Death with Dignity: He performs a Heroic Sacrifice to save Costigan and the whole operation when Costello's men were arriving to the building.
- A Father to His Men: He really cares about the men he oversees. When Billy goes to Queenan's home, he offers him some food and beverages to the young man.
- The Good Captain: Best exemplified in a scene where he is visited by Costigan in the middle of the night to give some important info. Queenan takes him in, even gives him some food and brings him water which shows he genuinely cares for him.
- Heroic Sacrifice: He lets some of Costello's boys pitch him to his death to keep Costigan's cover secure.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: He is a calm fatherly man who gives some sense when tension arises and he was willing to sacrifice his own life to hide Billy's identity and the whole operation to stop Costello.
- Team Dad: To the undercovers.
Captain George Ellerby
Played By: Alec BaldwinColin Sullivan's superior and the one in charge for any active operation against Costello.
- Beware the Nice Ones: He seems to be as reasonable as Queenan, but he can get easily excited and does not accept stupid failures easily. When the FBI didn't placed the cameras correctly in the meeting between Costello and the Chinese dealers, he almost beat the technician in charge.
- Big Good: Along with Queenan.
- The Captain: The second police captain in charge in the operation against mobster Frank Costello. He leads the action operations.
- Da Chief: His role in the film.
- Guttural Growler: Alec Baldwin's voice.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Like Dignam, he is unbelievably abrasive and insensitive, but well-meaning.
- You Remind Me of X: Ellerby does not suspect that Colin Sullivan is Costello's mole because he sees him as a younger version of himself.
Staff Sergeant Sean Dignam
Played By: Mark WahlbergA tough sergeant and the number two for captain Queenan.
- Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Sergeant Rough to Queenan's Captain Smooth.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Appears at the end to kill Sullivan.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Stands out in a film full of them.
- Deadpan Snarker: His snarky lines provide most of the tension breakers in the film."I'm the guy who does his job. You must be the other guy."
- Deus ex Machina: When it looks like Sullivan is about to get away with his crimes, he appears in the end to kill Sullivan in revenge.
- Expy: Mark stated he was emulating every cop that had arrested him as a child as well as his own parents when they had to pay his bail with the grocery money.
- Good Is Not Nice: He is a rude, obnoxious bully who needlessly antagonizes everyone he comes in contact with, but is dedicated to the job and fiercely loyal to Queenan. He saw to it that Queenan's death, as well as Costigan's (who he didn't even like) were avenged.
- Hair-Trigger Temper: He's very quick to resort to physical attacks.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Few of his co-workers could stand being around him, but for all his rudeness he's quite fond of Queenan and wants to stop Costello's criminal empire.
- The Lancer: To Queenan
- Number Two: For Queenan.
- Officer O'Hara: He's a swearer, and he's also played by native Bostonian Mark Wahlberg, who uses his native accent instead of anything else.
- Politically Incorrect Hero: During his very first scene he uses words like "nigger" and "cunt".
- Sincerity Mode: Drops his profane act a few times, for instance telling Costigan early on that he's too smart to be a cop.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Everybody swears in the movie, but he himself hardly says a sentence without a swearing word.
Played By: Anthony AndersonAn officer who trained along with Billy at the police academy.
- Black Best Friend: To Costigan in the Academy.
- Black Dude Dies First: Averted; he is the last good guy to die.
- Boom, Headshot: He was killed by Barrigan this way.
- Chekhov's Gunman: He returns in the final act as Billy's reinforcement to arrest Colin Sullivan.
- Mauve Shirt: Thanks to Barrigan.
- Token Minority: The only African-American in the film.
Played By: James Badge DaleA police officer and a friend to Colin Sullivan.
- Asshole Victim: Considering he is betrayed and murdered by his friend Colin right after he just murdered Costigan and Brown without hesitation, it's hard to feel bad for him.
- Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Introduced as an honest cop, unaware of his partner Sullivan's corruption. He is just as crooked as Sullivan, if not worse.
- Boom, Headshot: He unexpectedly kills Billy Costigan when the elevator opens and saves Colin. Then Colin grabs a gun and kills Barrigan the same way.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Plays a massive part in shaping up the ending, killing Billy Costigan and revealed to be another mole for Costello.
- Detective Mole: Just like Colin, he was working for Frank Costello to spy on Sullivan himself.
- Dirty Cop: He was working secretly for Costello, much like Colin.
- Even Evil Has Standards: It appears that he was genuinely trying to save Sullivan at the end of the film, perhaps becaus he was the only other surviving member of Frank's gang.
- The Mole: Implied to have been placed on the police by Costello to spy on Sullivan.
- The Scapegoat: Sullivan pins all of his crimes on Barrigan after killing him.
- Walking Spoiler: He is spying on Colin on behalf of Costello.
Francis "Frank" Costello
Played By: Jack NicholsonA ruthless and infamous old mobster targeted by the Boston Police Department.
- Asshole Victim: Racist, constantly unplesant, and a mob boss. The only people sad to see him go are the FBI.
- Ax-Crazy: Established early on when he and French execute a man and woman on a beach.Costello: Jesus... she fell funny. (starts chuckling)Mr. French: Frank, I really think you ought to see somebody.
- Bad Boss: He constantly threatens to murder his underlings if they displease him. He kicks it up a notch at one point with Sullivan, threatening to have his girlfriend raped if he doesn't find the mole.
- Beard of Evil: Frank is an slovenly, unshaven bastard of a mob boss.
- Big Bad: All these infiltration games are centred around him and his mob. Also, he corrupted a very young Colin Sullivan to join him into his mob and uses him as a mole inside the police.
- The Corrupter: He tricked Colin to join his mafia when he was just a kid.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Frank is betraying his own men to the FBI, taping Sullivan so he can give him up if the need arises, and screws the Chinese government over on a deal for stolen missile technology.
- Dirty Old Man: In his first scene, he hits on a teenager by asking if she's had her period yet. Later, he makes a pass at a nun.
- Expy: Of Irish-American mobster James "Whitey" Bulger.
- The Don: Has been the head of his own gang for decades, and is the most wanted organized crime figure in Boston.
- Evil Old Folks: Age has not slowed down his rampant criminal activities, nor has it made him any less intimidating.
- Faux Affably Evil: He comes across as a charismatic guy for at most, a few seconds, before revealing what a depraved psychotic he truly is.
- For the Evulz: The reason he truly does what he does. At his core, Frank is a sadist.Billy: You don't need the money.Costello: I haven't "needed the money" since I took Archie's milk money in the third grade. Tell you the truth, I don't need pussy any more either... but I like it.
- Hypocrite: Costello is homicidally obsessed with snuffing out the rat in his crew. This makes it all the more ironic when he is revealed to be an informant for the FBI, selling out every member of his crew, including his informants in the police like Sullivan.
- Genre Savvy: Costello is aware that sending The Mole into the police might lead him to become a double agent, so he sends another mole, Barrigan, to keep an eye on Sullivan.
- The Informant: He is actually informing the FBI and it's the reason why the Boston police can't arrest him for his crimes.
- The Irish Mob: He leads his own Irish-American crime syndicate.
- It's All About Me: It becomes clear that Frank Costello only has loyalty to himself alone. This is proven when he's revealed to be an FBI mole compiling information on every one of his crew, including Colin Sullivan who he acts as a Parental Substitute to. And taken further when he quickly leaves his trusted Number Two Mr. French to die in a car fire during the sting operation.
- Large Ham: Jack Nicholson explodes any piece of charisma and presence to his performance and chews almost every scenery like a rat.
- Meaningful Name: The historical Frank Costello, associate of Lucky Luciano and eventual leader of the Genovese crime family.
- No Historical Figures Were Harmed: His character is heavily inspired by Boston gangster, Whitey Bulger, who both had an informant in the FBI and was an informant himself.
- Politically Incorrect Villain: Some of his snarky comments are filled with lots and lots of black humor, whose targets includes black people, Asians and pedophile priests. Also, he slept with a nun and flirts with a teenage girl.
- Properly Paranoid: For as crazy as he is about it, he's not wrong about there being a cop in his crew.
- Sanity Slippage: As Costigan tells Queenan, Costello seems to get crazier as the rumor of the mole is intensifying. One scene involves Costello coming to the pub's bar with his arms covered in blood and acting like normal, telling his men to clean the mess he left.
- The Sociopath: Murders, tortures and stabs people in the back without a care in the world. At one point, he casually pulls out a severed hand in a plastic bag while having a private chat with Costigan over lunch.
- Villainous Breakdown: When he finds out about Delahunt being a cop.
- Villainous Friendship: Seems to have one with Mr French.
- Wicked Cultured: He goes to an opera play, along with two of his lovers. Somehow he seems to enjoy it as he quietly shooshed one of his girls.
Mr. Arnold "French"
Played By: Ray WinstoneCostello's most trusted enforcer.
- Beard of Evil: A small goatee.
- Better to Die than Be Killed: He ends up committing suicide after getting himself trapped inside the car.
- Deadpan Snarker: He's quick with a witty remark.
- The Dragon: To Costello.
- Exact Words: French isn't gonna hurt ya. He's gonna kill you.
- Famous Last Words: "F*ck it!"
- Genius Bruiser: He's powerful and tough, but he's no idiot. He makes plenty of decisions for Costello's organisation.
- Villainous Friendship: Has a genuine one with Frank, it seems.
- What the Hell Is That Accent?: Wherever French's supposed to be from, it most certainly isn't Boston, or even North America for that matter.
- Weapon of Choice: A Smith and Wesson Model 19 snub nose revolver.
Played By: David O'HaraA slightly dim but intimidating henchman of Costello.
- Actually Pretty Funny: He can't help laughing when Costello is yelling at him about dumping a body.
- Boom, Headshot: Shot in the head in a gunfight with Boston police.
- The Brute: His primary role in Costello's organisation.
- Fake Nationality: A native Irish immigrant played by Scottish actor David O'Hara.
- Dumb Muscle: He's not very smart, as evidenced by his inability to successfully hide a body.
- Hero Killer: He's part of the group that kills Queenan.
- Those Two Bad Guys: With Delahunt.
- Villainous Friendship: Fitzy has a genuine friendship with fellow thug Delahunt.
- Weapon of Choice: A Smith and Wesson 36 revolver
Played By: Mark RolstonOne of Costello's top thugs.
- Ambiguous Situation: After his body is found, the news reports that he was an undercover cop who infiltrated Costello's gang. Fitzy and the others buy into this, but Costello is convinced that he was labelled as such so that he will think there is no longer a rat in the crew. Which makes sense, since there is still a rat in the crew: Costigan. It's never stated which is correct.
- Dumb Muscle: Seemingly, as he's on the same level as Fitzy.
- Hidden Depths: Revealed as he's dying, when he speaks to Costigan and is later revealed to be an undercover cop.
- I Never Said It Was Poison / Dying as Yourself: Delahunt figures out that Costigan is an undercover cop because he is at the place where the other gangsters were congregating to catch the mole, even though Costigan was accidentally given the wrong address.
- The Mole: He's actually an undercover cop.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Delahunt is usually seen with Fitzy.
- Undercover Cop Reveal: He's actually an undercover BPD officer.
- Villainous Friendship: He and Fitzy are friends.
- Wham Line: "Tell me why I didn't tell anybody."
Dr Madolyn Madden
Played By: Vera FarmigaA psychiatrist who Costigan sees under the terms of his probation.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Averted. Madolyn does not know anything about Colin being a mole and when she discovers it she refuses to speak to him for the rest of the film.
- Alliterative Name: Madolyn Madden.
- Babies Ever After: She winds up pregnant, with both potential fathers dead. Though its strongly implied that Costigan is the real father.
- Love Interest: For Sullivan and Costigan.
- The Shrink: She's a psychiatrist who treats both Sullivan and Costigan.
- The Smurfette Principle: The only major female character.
- Your Cheating Heart: She sleeps with Billy Costigan while in a (admittedly empty) relationship with Sullivan.
Played By: Kevin CorriganBilly Costigan's cousin.