Monday, April 11, 2011

Capsule Review: Scarface (1983)

The rise of a particularly tightly-wound Cuban immigrant to the top of a drug empire seems like odd material for Brian De Palma, who up to that point had specialized in genre films and Hitchcock tributes, but Scarface not only allows the director to revel in a bevy of horrific elements, but also allows him to create a very 80s tribute to the gangster films of the 1930s (including the original Howard Hawks Scarface from 1932). Perhaps even more surprising is that this cautionary tale - penned by Oliver Stone - would become iconic in the hip-hop music world, where Tony Montana's odd internal code and flashy lifestyle created a template for any number of musicians, despite Montana's own eventual downfall and violent demise. The character, as well as Al Pacino's electric performance, is simply impossible to ignore, fueled by a sense of entitlement (and loads of cocaine) as he embraces the Miami criminal underworld. He's poisonous to those around him, violent, profane and unpredictable, but has a charisma that draws people in even as he destroys them. This is a film that revels in excess, from the early 80s fashions to the synth soundtrack (by Giorgio Moroder) to the explosive climax, yet somehow works thanks to De Palma's sweeping (and swooping) camera moves, Stone's Shakespearean script, and Pacino's loony performance. Occasionally a little hard to take seriously, it's still tremendously entertaining.

1 comment:

Klaus said...

I was surprised how much I chuckled at this movie - other than Pacino's performance, it hasn't aged well. Still enjoyed it though.