“Great men are not born great, they grow great” (The Godfather Part 1)…. To start an article with a cheesy quote is not something I tend to do, but when writing about Al Pacino, a true master and film legend, I think it’s only appropriate. Pacino is, of course, most famous for his performances in The Godfather Part I and II, perhaps more so for the latter due to his central role, and then unforgettably Scarface. But he has put in so many incredible performances in both movies and on stage throughout his career that now that his newest film Danny Collins is released, it is only fitting to embrace how fantastic an actor he truly is and how great he has grown in the industry.
Pacino is seventy-five now and still going strong, though it is quite clear that his most recent instalment is not one of his best. Regardless however, the very fact that he is in a new movie calls for some sort of a contemplation of what has been an excellent career. As I said before, he is best known for the gangsters he has played, both Mike Corleone and Tony Montana, and that is reasonable recognition as the portrayal he provides is a harrowing watch in both cases, but each piece of cinematic work are just to name two on a brilliantly impressive list.
The movie he actually won an Oscar for was The Scent of a Woman and it is honestly one of the best films I have ever seen. Released in 1992, it consists of a blind war veteran struggling to extract any joy from life without sight. It is only fair that Pacino won an Oscar for this performance as it is nothing short of startlingly good and, although he was nominated for The Godfather, it is shocking that he did not win an Academy Award for his role in one of the best pictures of all time.
Some of the scenes Pacino has starred in highlight the quality of his career. There is a rich abundance in the Godfather trilogy including Mike Corleone’s confrontation of Carlo, “don’t tell me you’re innocent, because it insults my intelligence. It makes me very angry.” Of course everybody knows the scene from Scarface in which Al wants to introduce us to his “little friend”, but there are also a number of fabulously dramatic scenes in The Scent of a Woman including where Al says, “I’m in the dark.”
Every character he tackles, Pacino adds a sense of incredible vulnerability and remorse, though at the same time, he gives the impression he’s about to lose the plot completely and go on a killing spree. His ability to illuminate a character that is so likeable and relatable but, at the same time, is so irresistibly dangerous is what makes him such a brilliant actor, and is certainly a significant contribution as to what makes these scenes so breath-taking to behold.
Other movies Pacino is great in include Heat, where he appears alongside Godfather colleague Robert De Niro in a high ranking cop vs. criminal mastermind thriller, and it, of course, is an utter joy to experience the two America-Italian geniuses at work together. It would be sin to forget Serpico, another film all-time greats, where Pacino plays Frank Serpico, a clean cop attempting to succeed in an academy riddled and poisoned with corruption. There are countless pictures Pacino has added an extra dimension to, such as The Devil’s Advocate, The Insider, The Recruit, Sea of Love and the list goes on and on and on…. Similar to many other movie lovers, I do not rank the Godfather Part III as up to the same standard in quality as the first two. This is through no fault of Pacino however; it’s just a bad film where nothing happens.
When deciding what clip to include with this article I strongly considered one of Mike Corleone’s dark and unnerving scenes, though I think Pacino’s court room scene in The Scent of a Woman really highlights how great an actor he is. Bear in mind he is blind and has experienced troubling experiences at war. This is a great scene but I do urge you to YouTube scenes from the Godfather and Serpico, or better yet, watch the movies! The American Netflix has a good selection including Serpico and if, like me, you’re about to go on a Pacino marathon, which you should, Netflix seems to be a good place to start. I wrote this article upon the release of Pacino’s latest movie Danny Collins, and when I researched a bit I realised how impressive an actor he is.
So I’m about to finish how I started, with a random quote from a Pacino film that doesn’t really have any relevance; “Well gentlemen, when the shit hits the fan, some guys run and some guys stay.” (The Scent of a Woman) Needless to say, in terms of acting prowess; Pacino is the king.