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Every great gangster movie has under-currents of human drama. Don't
expect an emotional story of guilt, retribution and despair from
"Scarface". This is a tale of ferocious greed, corruption, and power.
The darker side of the fabled "American Dream".
Anybody complaining about the "cheesiness" of this film is missing the point. The superficial characters, cheesy music, and dated fashions further fuel the criticism of this life of diabolical excess. Nothing in the lives of these characters really matter, not on any human level at least. In fact the film practically borderlines satire, ironic considering all the gangsta rappers that were positively inspired by the lifestyle of Tony Montana.
This isn't Brian DePalma's strongest directorial effort, it is occasionally excellent and well-handled (particularly the memorable finale), but frequently sinks to sloppy and misled. Thankfully, it is supported by a very strong script by Oliver Stone (probably good therapy for him, considering the coke habit he was tackling at the time). The themes are consistent, with the focus primarily on the life of Tony Montana, and the evolution of his character as he is consumed by greed and power. The dialogue is also excellent, see-sawing comfortably between humour and drama. There are many stand-out lines, which have since wormed their way into popular culture in one form or another.
The cast help make it what it is as well, but this is really Pacino's film. One of his earlier less subtle performances (something much more common from him nowadays), this is a world entirely separate from Michael Corleone and Frank Serpico. Yet he is as watchable here as ever, in very entertaining (and intentionally over-the-top) form. It is hard to imagine another Tony Montana after seeing this film, in possibly one of the most mimicked performances ever. Pfeiffer stood out as dull and uncomfortable on first viewing, but I've come to realize how she plays out the part of the bored little wife. Not an exceptional effort, but unfairly misjudged. The supporting players are very good too, particularly Paul Shenar as the suave Alejandro Sosa.
Powerful, occasionally humorous, sometimes shocking, and continually controversial. "Scarface" is one of the films of the eighties (whatever that might mean to you). An essential and accessible gangster flick, and a pop-culture landmark. 9/10
"Scarface" has a major cult following even now, 22 years after its
It has also been widely criticized as being very tacky, unrefined, over-the-top and all bloated up! These are people who compare Scarface to The Godfather movies. It is true that on the technical front, (cinematography, screenplay, direction, etc.) Scarface is way behind 'The Godfather'.
But it is also true, that what Scarface has and some other gangster movies lack, is the rawness, the sheer crude approach of the gangsters. The Latino gangsters in this movie look much more menacing and real than any of the polished Italian or Irish gangsters from other gangster classics like 'The Godfather' or 'Goodfellas'. This is one of the major winning points of Scarface and I strongly believe that this fact has been written off as "tackiness" by most critics! I have seen the original 1932 Scarface, and I must say that both these movies are way too different from each other and should be seen as two different movies instead of praising the original over the "remake"!
Al Pacino has been criticized to be over-the-top and loud in this movie. But how about considering that that is precisely the way the film-makers wanted Tony Montana's character to be! He is this angry young man who takes hasty decisions and throws fits of tantrum every other minute! He is not the calm Michael Corleone here. He is Tony Montana, a very tacky, uneducated individual who doesn't really think much and gets angry all the time!
There is definitely a very 80s feel to this movie. The soundtrack is all 80s! I love some of the songs, including 'Gina and Elvira's theme', 'Push it to the limit' and the title track instrumental.
There are some memorable and beautifully shot sequences, including the famous chainsaw scene, the Rebenga hit, the first meeting with Sosa and Tony's visit to his mother's.
About the performances: Al Pacino is brilliant as the angry Cuban refugee. He has reportedly mentioned that he enjoyed playing Tony Montana the most in his entire career. And it really does seem like he has enjoyed himself thoroughly in all his scenes! One wonders what "Scarface" would be like without Pacino. I just couldn't imagine anyone else portraying Tony Montana and in all probabilities, the film wouldn't be as effective without him!
Steven Bauer shines as Tony's friend Manny.
Robert Loggia is wonderful as Tony's boss, Lopez. So is F. Murray Abraham (as Omar) in a small role.
Then there is some eye-candy in the form of Elvira played by Michelle Pfeiffer. She looks beautiful and is adequate in her role.
The director does go a bit overboard during a particular part in the climax. Without revealing anything, I would only say that that was the only little part that suffers due to improper handling.
"Scarface" is definitely one of the most entertaining and one of the best gangster movies to ever come out. Enjoy it for what it is: a raw portrayal of the Drug Lords and their gangland!
"A Classic is something that everybody wants to have read but nobody
wants to read. A classic is also something that everyone praises but no
one has read." -Mark Twain
'Classic' seems to be the word used to describe "Scarface", Brian DePalma's 1983 film about opulence, self surrender, greed, and danger among Florida's drug ring. People and critics (and rappers for that matter) deem this film 'an epic gangster classic' or 'eptiome of gangster films.' When it is anything but. It is praised for all the wrong reasons. Scarface is a terrific film that deserves praise from all over, but not all the praise it gets from audiences today, and therefor the fine points it so poignantly makes are missed by the general public.
First off, the film is about a Cuban refugee, with a past of wanting to escape communism grasp and find happiness. Simple? Yes. But the layers of De Palma's directing genius, and the great story written by Oliver Stone (yes I know, he actually wrote a real good one here) play into all of it. The characters are all looking for an escape, as escape is a natural element dealt with in the film by all. Each character has something to offer, that makes them likable by everyone who could appreciate this film. They are entwined in a world of mystique and money, but all that has a price, as they all learn. Each character thinks they are getting better chances in life, when in true dramatic irony, they are actually getting worse. 'Tragedy' would be a better word to describe this movie. All those who praise the film for it's drug usage, it's violence, it's dialog, totally missed the point. There is nothing really positive about the film besides the characters positive expectations of themselves. And that is why the film works so well. The devastation through out the film serves to deliver the message of the film, not to look cool or attract viewers. Brian De Palma doesn't make movies for cult gangsters, or brainless action fans.
Next on, the film is an adult drama. It is not a 'gangster film'. It has it's share of action, but the action is plotted very carefully, so it has a point. It's not like "Aliens"- an example of a big dumb action film, and most audiences perceive this film as a big dumb action gangster film about doing drugs and shooting people. Ridiculous. Hogwash. If this film is about that, then it is about how bad it is. Not a promotion of it.
This being said, the film is indeed a great film. It has great cinematography that pulls you into the story. It has a very dramatic score (in true Giorgio Moroder style), which simply could give you chills, or bring you to tears. The film is rather lengthy, but it is a story, and each moment counts. The acting is terrific. Al Pacino - enough said. He can do any role that he puts his mind to, and this was no exception. Pretty boy Steven Bauer, as Manny. I didn't think much of him in other films he did, but he actually makes you like him when he goes under maestro De Palma's direction. Michelle Pfeiffer is a true gem as Elvira. Popping' fresh off the heels of a sort of embarrassment in "Grease 2" she got her ticket to ride performing a no holds barred performance of a beauty that is more than meets the eye. But the three true diamonds in this rough are Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio as Tony's sister Gina, who when she smiles, or cries, we see her soul and her fresh way of living, and watch it deteriorate; Paul Shenar as Alejandro Sosa, a drug lord, who runs deeper than a river, and Shenar portrays him as so; and Miriam Colom as Tony and Gina's torn mother. These three dig the film as deep as it can go.
This reviewer learned one main thing when watching "Scarface" for the first time. Always go into a film unsuspecting. All the hype and talk of this film cannot possibly prepare you for what you really see. Only knowing De Palma (like I do) can give you even a glimpse of what this film holds. So ignore the rap crap, ignore the mindless violence supporters, and fix yourself a glass of Bailey's on the rocks, and indulge yourself in an emotional viewing of a great film, the real "Scarface."
This is one of my all time favorites.
If the movie has a flaw, it's that it comes at you like a raging bull. It doesn't so much engage the viewer as assault him. ''Scarface'' is as voracious and unyielding a production as Tony Montana himself. Nothing is left to the viewer's imagination.
Moroder's languorous synthpop fits the action to a tee. Like the chorus in a Greek tragedy, it wails and gnashes, broods and tugs, a constant reminder of Tony's inexorable fate.
Not so much a tale of caution as a disaster in progress, ''Scarface'' rips across the screen with the unstoppable force of a runaway train.
Directed by Brian De Palma and written by Oliver Stone, "Scarface" is a movie that will not be forgotten. A Cuban refugee named Tony Montana (Pacino) comes to America for the American Dream. Montana then becomes the "king" in the drug world as he ruthlessly runs his empire of crime in Miami, Florida. This gangster movie is very violent, and some scenes are unpleasant to watch. This movie has around 180+ F-words and is almost three hours long. This movie is entertaining and you will never get bored. You cheer for the Drug-lord, and in some scenes you find out that Montana isn't as evil as some other Crime Lords. This is a masterpiece and i recommend that you see this. You will not be disappointed. 9/10
Ya know when one looks at this Brian DePalma film today, I'm sure there
been allot of criticism about how dated it is. Also, about the violence.
When I looked at this film on VHS when I was 20, I thought it was
ulta-violent and gritty as well. But I didn't get 'it'.
A few decades go by and man, how I know how much I didn't get in this film!! This is a remake of an excellent film which was done back in the 30's/40's. How can you improve upon a classic? Ya don't. But you tell a tale that is brought up to date through the eyes of the "new immigrants" during the most greed ridden decade, the over indulgent 80's. DePalma, Stone and the gang present an ambitious, disturbing and darn right good film.
Yes....Disco was dying and New Wave/Punk were taking over but these immigrants from Cuba who had to make a new home in Florida couldn't tell the difference. It was exciting, it was what they wanted but how to get it???? To these immigrants, there was only one way to get it in Florida where they were..by having lots of money and to get the money, you had to take over running a drug empire.
Al Pacino was fantastic to me as Tony Montana, the "little train that could". What an amazing way to have your lead character look at America: to fight, kill, steal. lie, cheat all to get -- "the money, the women and the power."
That's what Tony saw as the American dream.
He wanted it, he wanted to live it and in his circle saw nothing wrong with how he went to get it. Tony Montana's command of the English language was heavily saturated with the "f" word but what did you expect, Emily Post's finishing school for him and his co-horts? Look at how they CAME to America, what they knew, what they were exposed to. This is the way Tony and his crew chose to "be all they can be in America." It was all about the power. Tony Montana would and did ANYTHING to achieve it..it all its violent, lying, stealing, crooked, thieving glory.
The part of the film that personified the 1980's to me, is the money laundering. Tony's crew bringing sacks of drug money to the bank. Did those around Tony and his crew care? At the clubs where he spent and drank? Nope. Money was money and with money, you get the power. Tony was living high off the hog. He and his pretty blond American trophy he married played well by Michelle Pfieffer.
After Tony Montana's rise to power, he finds out its really crappy up there. He's riddled with doubt, he's drug addicted, he's paranoid, he's surrounded by those who want to take him on in a bloody take-over, his trophy 80's American blonde drug addicted wife he finds out is a bore, he needs to keep atop of his empire because...he's going down. And down he goes in a horrific violent fashion, but again I ask, what do you expect?
This is the quintessential 1980's film telling you a warped tale of how some misunderstand the American Dream...to obsession. It's violent, bloody, overly so..but it drives the point disturbingly home. Not all Cubans thrown out of Cuba who landed in Florida in the 80's were anything like Tony Montana. Give me a break. But the showing of how miserable the 1980's were with its emphasis on greed and money as the only measures in the USA to "be somebody" and have power took its tool on these poor characters and their lives in America.
Makes you wonder -- has anything from then -- been learned today?
Pacino gives an amazing performance that is both comic and tragic in this
remake of the 1932 classic about corruption in America.
Brian De Palma updated the original Prohibition story to the era of the Mariel boat-lift and the heavy traffic in drugs that still infest the United States. The film is an uncompromising revelation of humanity's dark side as Pacino's character learns never to underestimate the other guy's greed. He neglects to learn the other important lesson -- never get caught in the vice you are pushing on others.
Pacino's character wants the world and everything in it. That's what he gets. We are reminded to beware of what we wish for.
The film is violent but never makes drug dealing seem glamorous.
In 1983, Director Brian De Palma set out to make a film about the rise and
fall of an American gangster, and that he did-- with the help of a terrific
screenplay by Oliver Stone and some impeccable work by an outstanding cast.
The result was `Scarface,' starring Al Pacino in one of his most memorable
roles. The story begins in May of 1980, when Castro opened the harbor at
Mariel, Cuba, to allow Cuban nationals to join their families in the United
States. 125,000 left Cuba at that time, for the greener pastures of freedom
in America, and most were honest, hard-working people, thankful for the
opportunity they had been granted. But not all. Among the `Marielitos' who
streamed into Florida, approximately 25,000 had criminal records and were
nothing less than the dregs of Cuba's jails-- criminals considered beyond
redemption, who Castro had merely wanted to be rid of. And they, too, saw
America as a land of opportunity, even as Al Capone had considered Chicago
some fifty years earlier. And among the most ambitious was a man named Tony
Montana (Pacino), known to his associates as `Caracortada.'
Now that he was free of the yoke of Communism under which he had grown up, Montana wanted what he felt was coming to him, and he wanted it now; and from the moment he stepped off the boat in Florida, he was determined to have it all. Wealth and power-- that was Montana's dream, and he would get it by doing what he did best, beginning with a favor for a man living in Miami by the name of Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia). Lopez, it seems, had a brother in Cuba who had met an untimely end at the hands of one of Castro's goons, a man who, having outlived his usefulness to Castro, had been summarily discarded and was currently being held in `Little Havana,' along with Montana and all of the Cubans just off the boats, where they awaited their papers from the government that would effect their transition into their new lives. And in short order, Montana sees to it that Lopez's brother has been avenged, and it sets the stage for his own entrance into the underworld of America.
Lopez, a wealthy businessman with the right connections, in return for the favor gets Montana and his friend, Manny (Steven Bauer), released from the holding camp, and puts them to work. In his day, Capone may have had bootlegging as a means through which to line his coffers with illicit gain, but Lopez has the modern day equivalent, and it's even more lucrative: Cocaine. Lopez takes Montana under his wing and indoctrinates him into the life, but once he has a taste of it, Montana isn't satisfied with whatever crumbs Lopez sees fit to throw his way, and he sets a course that will take him to where he wants to be: At the `top.' With a cold-blooded, iron will, Montana decides he'll do whatever it takes to get there, no matter what the cost. but before it's over, he will realize the price for his dream, and he'll pay it; but for a brief moment, perhaps he will know what it's like to be The Man. And he will also know whether or not it was worth it.
In step with De Palma's vision, Pacino plays Montana larger-than-life, and he does it beautifully. From the accent he affects (which he researched thoroughly to make sure he got it right-- and he did), to the body language and the attitude, he's got it all, and it makes Montana convincing and very real. What he brings to the role is nuance and style, in a way that few actors (De Niro would be one) can. This is definitely not a character that is sympathetic in any way, nor is there anything about Montana that you can readily relate to on a personal level; but Pacino's screen presence is so strong that it makes him a thoroughly engrossing character, even though it's hard to become emotionally involved with him. It's quite simply a dynamic, memorable performance.
Michelle Pfeiffer gives a solid performance, as well, in the role that put her on the path to stardom. As Elvira, the woman who becomes an integral part of Montana's dream, Pfeiffer is subtle and understated, giving that sense of something going on underneath, while affecting a rather cold and distant exterior countenance. She, like Pacino, definitely makes her presence felt as she fairly glides across the screen with a stoic, enigmatic and sultry demeanor.
The supporting cast includes Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Gina), Miriam Colon (Mama Montana), F. Murray Abraham (Omar), Paul Shenar (Sosa) and Harris Yulin (Bernstein). An excellent precursor to the more recent and highly acclaimed `Traffic,' and `Blow,' and well as having a climactic scene reminiscent of Peckinpah's `The Wild Bunch,' De Palma's `Scarface,' originally panned by critics, has since been cited by many as being the definitive American gangster saga. Much of the violence is implied rather than graphic, but this film still has an edge of realism to it that many may find somewhat disturbing. But if you stay with it, there is a lesson to be learned in the end. And like many lessons in life, the most valuable are often the hardest to take at the time. But the reward is always worth it, and that's the way it is with this film. I rate this one 8/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The story turns around Antonio 'Scarface' Montana, an ultra-violent
Cuban refugee who comes to the United States with less than nothing,
and makes a place for himself at the top of the cocaine trade...
As a calculating man with a conscience, and extreme ambitions, Tony strongly begins to desire the things he sees a criminal high-roller enjoying, including his luscious lover... Heights his way out of a refugee camp by enjoying the chance to stab a former taker of Freedom, takes out rival dealers, gains the confidence of an important drug lord by eclipsing a local gang boss in Miami, and eventually makes it to the highest levels of the drug organization...
Pacino shows the results of greed and lust for power on the human psyche... He guns his way through the sunny streets of Miami where he got 'the world and everything in it.' With his ruthlessness, obscene dialog, and his negotiation skills, he begins to imagine himself invulnerable and above all others... He quickly moves deep to the world of gangs, and becomes more ruthless than anyone else can possibly imagine...
Michelle Pfeiffer looks dazzling as the addicted wife with no inner life... She succeeds in portraying the trophy 'object' navigating uncertain waters with her anti-hero... Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio happens to be the best in Tony's life, the only thing that is good and pure... Her revulsion at the end of the movie is so fiery that her whole head could have blown off... Robert Loggia exhibits a weak and fearful disposition, especially when faced with Pacino as a challenger... He proves to be a less-ambitious boss in a position of power... Steven Bauer shines as the man of charm, loyal ally and faithful friend...
The Oliver Stone-scripted 'Scarface' is a change in genre, lifting scene after scene of Hawks' classic while updating the rise-and-fall gangster saga to modern, drug-infested Miami... But, as always, the focus is on decadence, profanity and violencememorably a sickening chainsaw murder, rather than on the psychological and social reasons for the hoodlum's psychopathic behavior...
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Arguebly Al Pacino's best role. He plays Tony Montana, A small time hood from Cuba turned into a rich and powerful crime lord in Miami, and he does it with the only two things he's got in this world, his balls and his word, and he doesn't break'em for nobody. Starts as doing jobs for a big time Cuban dealer, Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia) and quickly goes up the ladder of the organization along with his long time friend Manny (Steven Bauer). Soon he has an eye for the boss's sexy wife Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer). After Frank sees a threat from Tony to his position, he attempts to assassin Tony but with no luck. Tony is upset and nothing can stop him now. the film has a great supporting cast among them is F. Murray Abraham as a jumpy gangster, another familiar face is Harris Yulin as a crooked cop trying to shake down Tony, Marry Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Tony's young sister. Credits to the Ecxellent screenplay by Oliver Stone. This film is one of Brian DePalma's Brightest points in his long ups and downs career, you can see this guy is very talented. The movie has a magnificent look to it. Also pay attention for two memorable scenes: The one at the fancy restaurant ("Say goodnight to the bad guy"). the other is the final shootout where Tony shows that he still knows how to kick ass and kills about 20 assassins that invaded to his house. this is certainly one of the most impressive endings to a movie I have ever seen. For fans of Al Pacino and crime movies it's a must-see. For the rest of you it's highly recommended. 10/10
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