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I don't want to be a product of my environment: I want my environment to be a product of me. Years ago, we had the church. That was only a way of saying "we had each other." The Knights of Columbus were real head-breakers, true guineas; they took over their piece of the city. Twenty years after an Irishman couldn't get a f*cking job, we had the presidency - may he rest in peace. That's what the n*ggers don't realize. If I got one thing against the black chappies, it's this: no one gives it to you. You have to take it.
~ Frank Costello's opening lines

Frank Costello is the main antagonist of the 2006 live-action crime drama film The Departed. An Irish-American mob boss, Costello rules over the Irish neighborhood of South Boston as it's reigning local crime kingpin - using his mole among the police in order to avoid interference in his operations; even at the age of seventy, Costello continues to directly manage the affairs of his empire, taking greater and greater risks for the sake of profit - despite the fact that he no longer needs the money, as he himself admits.

He was portrayed by veteran actor Jack Nicholson, who also played Jack Torrance in Stanley Kubrick's The ShiningThe Joker in Tim Burton's Batman, and Colonel Nathan R. Jessup in Rob Reiner's A Few Good Men.

Role in the film

Introducing the film in a prologue set several years before the events of the plot, Frank Costello happens to meet a ten-year-old by the name of Colin Sullivan while collecting protection money from a local convenience store. Taking a shine to the child, Costello gives Sullivan a huge supply of groceries (plus a comic book for good measure) and informs him that if he ever wants to earn a little extra he should look him up on L street. Soon after, Sullivan begins working for Costello, who introduces him to the criminal underworld and gradually molds him into his pawn in the legitimate world: as an adult, Sullivan joins the Massachusetts State Police, passing his exams with flying colors and eventually being accepted into the Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on organized crime. Here, he serves as Costello's mole, keeping him informed of developments within the Staties and manipulating the department to the crime lord's advantage.

Unknown to both Costello and Sullivan however, police trainee Billy Costigan is secretly recruited by Captain Queenan and Staff Sergeant Dignam to become an undercover agent. At their behest, Costigan drops out of the police academy, goes to prison on false charges, and is eventually able to earn membership in Costello's gang - but not before being brutally interrogated by a boot-wielding Costello.

As both infiltrate their respective organizations, Costello soon becomes the subject of a major investigation, as he has managed to obtain twenty weapons-grade microprocessors and is planning to sell them them to a Chinese syndicate. Thanks to Sullivan, however, Costello manages to escape the sting; in the process, both moles become aware of the other's existence, though not their respective identities. Sullivan is told to find the "rat" and asks Costello for his underlings' personal information (birth dates, Social Security numbers, etc.) to determine who is the informant within the crew; after tailing the crime lord to a porn theater - and getting flashed by Costello for good measure - Sullivan is finally given the details, only to end up getting tailed by Costigan in a chase through Boston's Chinatown district. When it is over, both men still do not know each other's identity.

Under Sullivan's guidance, Costello's gang ambushes a meeting between Queenan and Costigan, and though the police informer manages to escape with the captain's help, Queenan is caught by the gang and thrown to his death. During the resulting shootout between the gang and the police officers tailing them, one of Costello's minions, Delahunt, is mortally wounded and later dies - though not before discovering Costigan's true identity and asking him why he didn't "say anything." When henchman Fitzy blunders hiding the corpse, news reporters covering the story reveal that Delahunt was also an undercover police officer, but Costello berates the rest of his crew for believing this, knowing that the more likely explanation is that the police declared Delahunt an informant in an attempt to make Costello drop his guard and end his search for the mole.

Under intense scrutiny and unable to end Costigan's mission, Sullivan later learns of Costello's role as an informant for the FBI from Queenan's diary, and begins to worry that his old mentor might reveal his dual identity. Not long afterwards, Costello makes arrangements for a cocaine drop-off, but on their way, Sullivan calls and reveals that the police are tailing Costello's cars; despite his best efforts to persuade the crime lord that he doesn't need to attend the drop-off, the mole is met only with screamed demands that he "get rid of the fucking tail," and is forced to comply. Fed up with Costello's arrogance and no longer trusting him anyway due to his FBI connections, Sullivan then convinces Ellerby to a special ops strike at the drop-off.

There, Costello and his crew are ambushed by the police, resulting in most of the mobsters being killed in the ensuing shootout, and Costello himself being badly wounded. As the crime lord attempts an escape, he is confronted by Sullivan in a nearby construction site: after being interrogated over his connections, Costello admits he is an occasional FBI mole, but denies telling his handlers anything about Sullivan, claiming that he is like a son to him. Outraged, Sullivan mockingly demands if that was what the entire arrangement between the two of them was about, implying that the crime lord is sterile and incapable fathering sons of his own despite "all the fucking." Angered, Costello opens fire but misses and Sullivan instinctively shoots him in the chest; this time fatally wounded, he pitches backwards into the open scoop of a construction excavator, belatedly firing one last shot at Sullivan as he lies there - only to miss again and end up getting gunned down again, this time finishing Costello off.

Trivia

  • Frank Costello was based on Whitey Bulger, an infamous Irish-American mobster who was able to escape justice for many years due to his alliance with corrupt FBI agent John Connolly.
  • Costello was also inspired by Hon Sam, the villain of Internal Affairs, upon which The Departed was based.