Classic Review – Scarface (1983)

Scar - post

Title – Scarface (1983)

Director – Brian De Palma (Carrie)

Cast – Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Bauer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia, F. Murray Abraham

Plot – Arriving to the sun soaked shores of Miami in the 1980’s Cuban Tony Montana (Pacino) and best friend Manny (Bauer) set forth on a journey in the organised crime arena of the city which includes crime boss Frank Lopez (Loggia) and his beautiful wife Elvira (Pfeiffer). When Tony gets a taste for the life of excess nothing will get in his way of taking the world any way he can.

“I always tell the truth. Even when I lie”

Review by Eddie on 10/06/2014

Dripping in charisma, flooded with violence and profanity, filled with riotous drug use and centred around one of the most energy infused performances seen in cinematic history, Brian De Palma’s Miami set 1983 gangster classic Scarface is a movie that sits on its black leathered throne high above all others before and all others since. Scarface is a movie that put its Oliver Stone penned middle finger up to those that shunned excess and made it it’s cornerstone that has now seen it become not only a movie marvel but a member of pop culture that many movies only dream to be a part of.

A remake of the 1932 Howard Hawkes directed film of the same name, De Palma’s updated tale was upon release misunderstood by both audiences and critics alike. People knew not how to take a film that revelled in 3 hours of epic debauchery, murder, vanity and drugs and a main character that only “trusts himself” and only has his “balls and his words, and he doesn’t break either of them”. It’s not hard to see why so many were put off by Al Pacino’s frank and stunning turn as an immigrant who can think of nothing more than taking the world any way he can and taking no prisoners in doing so. It’s interesting watching such a character at work in today’s movie age in which all hero’s and antiheroes must have a backbone as to why they do as they do, whereas Tony Montana just wants, he doesn’t need a reason to own a tiger or rake in millions he just does it and enjoys doing so. It’s a real testament to both the performance of Al Pacino and the script by Stone that this journey and man work the way they do as it would have been an easy feat for the movie to go off the rails without them at full strength which is the same as renowned director Brian De Palma.

Instilling the Miami set film with a sense of life rarely seen on cinema screens, De Palma’s Scarface is a film not only made by its subject and actors but a film that is transcended by its locale becoming a key component of the story it harbors. Miami lives and breathes under De Palma’s steady hand (despite it being filmed elsewhere in the majority) and the sense of opportunity it presents to its migrated Cubans can be not only sensed by the audience but felt also. De Palma is a director well known for his erratic efforts behind the camera for every Untouchables there’s a Femme Fatale and for every Blow Out there’s a Raising Cain, but here the director is in charge at every angle, every performance feels right, every brutal act of gang violence strikes a blow and every synthesised beat of Giorgio Moroder’s now classic score resonates. It’s a film that works on all levels and De Palma is the king of its unique domain.

Scarface is a movie that speaks for itself, it is what it is and that’s why it has become the masterpiece many now see it as being. De Palma’s film is a 3 epic that from the first frame to the last is utterly and undeniable excessive and for all the right reasons. From esteemed professionals through to street gangbangers, Scarface speaks to that wannabe crime lord in all of us and gives to us in the form of Tony Montana a protagonist that unlike most others is unashamed of who and what he is and a protagonist that makes this movie such a blast of fresh air even these 30 plus years on.

5 flying flamingos out of 5

19 responses to “Classic Review – Scarface (1983)

  1. The most fitting thing in the whole screenplay, to me at least, is how Tony’s demise ultimately comes from the one good, selfless act he made: refusing to kill those two children in the car he was supposed to bomb. This poetic screen justice and many other moments in the film are reasons why I put De Palma’s remake a clear level or two above the 1932 mobster original. It’s a totally different type of gangster tale than a Godfather, Goodfellas, or any similar type of Italian-American mobster movie.

    The film’s climax is also the ultimate for me for in terms of movie endings. It couldn’t be filmed in any way more visceral or vicious. Tony was unstoppable face-to-face, and couldn’t be gunned down by anyone who looked him squarely in the eye, but from behind, that’s a different story. The fact that Pacino’s protagonist had to be killed by a sneaking, backstabbing assassin and his refusal to take innocent life are an odd juxtaposition of a man at times so bloodthirsty and at home in the gangster world, yet at many other times a very “standup” honest guy who stands by his word in his balls in a profession very much ruled by liars, traitors, thieves, and backstabbers who have neither.

    Fly, you pelicans, fly…

  2. Good review Eddie. Overrated definitely, but still a fun movie to watch. Also, it makes me feel cool knowing that I’m watching the same flick that nearly thousands and thousands of gangster rappers have seen and practically adore.

  3. I’ve never been able to get into Scarface. It just never clicked for me. Basically up until the very last few scenes I find myself drifting off, not being able to feel engaged. I seem to be one of the few that feel this way though so…

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