|John A. Alonzo|
Tony Montana manages to leave Cuba during the Mariel exodus of 1980. He finds himself in a Florida refugee camp but his friend Manny has a way out for them: undertake a contract killing and arrangements will be made to get a green card.
He’s soon working for drug dealer Frank Lopez and shows his mettle when a deal with Colombian drug dealers goes bad. He also brings a new level of violence to Miami. Tony is protective of his younger sister but his mother knows what he does for a living and disowns him. Tony is impatient and wants it all however, including Frank’s empire and his mistress Elvira Hancock. Once at the top however, Tony’s outrageous actions make him a target and everything comes crumbling down.
“You wanna play rough?? OKAY!”
“Scarface” has a major cult following even now, 22 years after its release.
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!
De Palma’s, Stone’s and Pacino’s finest hour.
Author: saveespy (firstname.lastname@example.org)
14 August 2001
I recently caught up with “Scarface” on DVD. The three main people involved in this film, I feel, have never come close in their subsequent careers to matching what they achieved here.
First of all, the script. Absolutely flawless. Stone has always been too didactic and preachy for my liking (“NBK”, anyone?), but here he was spot on. What amazes me now looking at the film is the way that it comments of the attitude and mentality of greed and materialism that was very much part of the 1980’s while the film was still of that time; no flippant irony like films of ttoday that look back on that period. This is probably one of the reasons why it failed at the box office; people of the time didn’t want to see the truth of what they had created.
Secontly, De Palma. The film is very much in the style of an opera, a Greek tragedy if you will. De Palma has always had an arrogant, ballsy visual style. It was a perfect marriage in “Scarface” with its subject matter. Even a small sequence like the one where he is left alone in the bathroom watching his T.V.’s, the way the camera pulls back to reveal physical emptiness, says so much about Montana so beautifully that words feel completely unnecessary.
Finally, Pacino.Like Jack Nicholson he is at times in danger of becomming a self-parody and lazy as an actor. However, this couldn’t be furthur from the truth in “Scarface”. The fact that Tony Montana is such a repellent character and yet you, as a viewer, are totally rivetted to and compelled by him is a major achievement on Pacino’s behalf. I’ll never forget the scene where he’s on the phone to Mani after Elvira’s left him and he asks Mani that, if she calls, to tell her that he loves her. Just that brief dlas of humanity within the monster that he has become.
“Scarface” is a modern classic of cinema. If you haven’t seen this film, do so as soon as possible. This stands along side “Once Upon A Time In America” and “Goodfellas” as a film that completely trandscends its genre limitations and has so much, much more to offer than mere vicsceral thrills. In other words, a brain behind the brawn.
Scarface began development after Al Pacino saw the 1932 film of the same name at the Tiffany Theater while in Los Angeles. He later called his manager, producer Martin Bregman, and informed him of his belief in the potential for a remake of that film.Pacino originally wanted to retain the period piece aspect, but realized that because of its melodramatic nature it would be difficult to accomplish. Sidney Lumet became attached as the director, developing the idea for Montana to be Cuban arriving in America during the Mariel boatlift.
Bregman and Lumet’s creative differences saw Lumet drop out of the project. Lumet h
ad wanted to make a more political story that focused on blaming the current Presidential administration for the influx of cocaine into the United States, and Bregman disagreed with Lumet’s views. Bregman replaced him with Brian De Palma, and hired writer Oliver Stone, later stating that it took only four phone calls to secure their involvement. Stone researched the script while battling his own cocaine addiction. He and Bregman performed their own research, travelling to Miami, Florida where they were given access to records from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Organized Crime Bureau. Stone moved to Paris to write the script, believing he could not break his addiction while in the United States, stating in a 2003 interview that he was completely off drugs at the time “because I don’t think cocaine helps writing. It’s very destructive to the brain cells.