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Scarface Movie Review

tony stone film pacino

1983 – Brian De Palma –

Brian DePalma and screenwriter Oliver Stone remade Howard Hawks’ 90-minute gangster classic from 1932 into a large-scale crime drama that charts the rise and fall of Cuban refugee Tony Montana (Al Pacino). Visually and verbally, the film has the appeal of a roadside accident with the wreckage still smoking. You can't quite avert your eyes. The director and writer get a kick from seeing which is the more tawdry side of dealing in cocaine: crassly flaunting the new-found wealth or crassly killing off friends and enemies. The movie spurts blood and flaunts its profanity like a badge of honor. The image of Pacino sitting in a Cadillac convertible with zebra-striped upholstery wearing Elvira's (Michelle Pfeiffer) white bonnet in an effort to make her laugh also illustrates the film's quirky appeal. Just as things start to look hopelessly cartoonish (F. Murray Abraham getting hanged from a hovering helicopter serving as an impromptu gallows), a scene comes along that almost humanizes the characters: Tony visits his mother (Miriam Colon) and sister (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), and his mother's angry rejection of his tainted money actually seems to shame him.

DePalma and Stone allude more directly to Hawks’ original film by including the incest-attraction Tony feels for his sister Gina, but until the very end, this remains the only latent element in this explicit film. DePalma also borrows the message from the electric sign (“The World Is Yours”) in the original and scrolls it across the side of a blimp that Tony sees in the night sky as he begins his ascent to the top of the drug industry. Predictably, once at the top he finds success hollow. In the great restaurant scene, Stone gives Pacino a soliloquy in which Tony starts addressing a roomful of embarrassed patrons: “You don't have the guts to be what you want to be. You need people like me … You're not good. You just know how to hide.” The drama of this moment suggests that Stone's interest in Tony is in his potential as a tragic hero. Tony's private office is even designed like a throne room. If it aims for this level, Scarface is a revenge tragedy with little insight for the hero—more like a Classics Illustrated Richard III than the real thing.

Cast: Al Pacino (Tony Montana), Steven Bauer (Manny Ray), Michelle Pfeiffer (Elvira), Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (Gina), Robert Loggia (Frank Lopez), Miriam Colon (Mama Montana), F. Murray Abraham (Omar), Paul Shenar (Sosa), Harris Yulin (Bernstein), Angel Salazar (Chi Chi), Arnaldo Santana (Ernie), Pepe Serna (Angel), Michael P. Moran (Nick the Pig), Al Israel (Hector the Toad), Richard Belzer (emcee at the Babylon Club) Screenwriter: Oliver Stone Cinematographer: John A. Alonzo Composer: Giorgio Moroder Producer: Martin Bregman for Universal MPAA Rating: R Running Time: 170 minutes Format: VHS, LV, DVD.

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