60/60 Review #45: Scarface (1983).

Well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad. So it turns out that I have three Brian De Palma films in a row. Yesterday was The Untouchables, now this, and next up is Carlito's Way. Of course, I know all about Scarface by now, including its famous line (and I promise... no "little friend" puns in this review). What I wasn't aware of was that it's a nearly 3-hour film. And we all know how I like my lengthy "classics."

For those not in-the-know, this is a remake of a 1930s film. It's about Tony Montana (Al Pacino), a Cuban refugee who rises in the ranks of the drug trade. Along the way, he falls for his boss' girl, Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer). We follow his rise and fall. The first hour is basically Tony Montana's beginnings... from his starts in a holding camp to starting in under the visage of a Miami drug lord. During this time there is also a very interesting standoff that involves a chainsaw, and he handles it... well. The second hour is his rise in the ranks. People start to respect him and appreciate him, though some (like his boss) believe he's too rash and needs to be dealt with. Of course, this leads Mr. Montana to further take charge and end up running the show. And the final hour is when things starts slipping away.

There's an irony surrounding the legacy of this film. The film essentially preaches the dangers of excess and ego. However, the ones who cherish and praise this film the most? Rappers who make millions on songs about excess and ego and then boast their accomplishments and unnecessary home editions and bountiful cars on MTV's Cribs. You also have teenagers of low socio-economic background who completely miss the point and see it as a tale of a man who starts out in a similar place as them who rises in power, gets and does whatever he wants (the freedom they wish to have at that age), and goes down in a blaze of glory--something they believe is possibly the highest of importance. So truly, those who have brought this film to the heights it has attained have utterly missed the point, which simultaneously nearly nullifies its status.

But that's not to say the film in and of itself isn't worthy of any kind of praise. Al Pacino gives an outstanding performance here. Not everybody is up to his level, however, but he holds the movie on his shoulders pretty damn well. And despite rarely smiling, he does bring a humor and humanity to the character. And I know it's more in the writing than his performance, but I was surprised by the angle that Tony Montana likes and wants children. Pacino plays him very human--though he still has some major faults, as well.

His performance, or even the story, doesn't make me feel like sitting through three hours, though. There are some scenes that could have been trimmed or even cut out all together. In the end, maybe an entire hour could have been cut out. At the end, I was left with the great performance and an iconic ending... but just a slightly above average film. I probably won't watch it again (except maybe the ending), but it is well made. If you haven't seen it, do so for Pacino's performance, but just know you're in it for a decent chunk of time.

I Am McLovin!

(P.S. I was just waiting for an "Ello... my name is Inigo Montoya..." etc. Such a similar accent!)


  1. I agree that Pacino is great, but I feel like this movie is way overrated. Sure, the finale is crazy, but a lot of is just painful. You're definitely right about the length. It's a two-hour story trying to be an epic.

  2. I think this film is pretty terrible. I think it's De Palma's excess without any of the grace and artistry he's imbued into his best films. Carlito's Way is better, I'll be interested to read your take on that.

    I'd recommend Carrie, Blow Out and Phantom of the Paradise, which are much better De Palma films than the ones he usually gets touted for making.

    Also, the original film is superior in just about every way possible. I really like it.

  3. I personally love when comedic actors do serious roles. I think it benefits both the audience and the actor. Just think if robin williams never did a serious role. As somebody who loves everything comedy, I feel like a good serious role deepens my love for that actor and impresses me when they can nail both. Also it goes the other way to. Good dramatic actors doing hilarious comedic characters... Tom Cruise... Boom

  4. Dan: I agree. It's very overrated.

    James: I didn't think it was terrible. I'm just not sure it deserves the acclaim it gets... especially not for the reasons it gets it.

    Fine Arts: Who did a role reversal in this movie?


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.