Title: Scarface (1983)
Director: Brian De Palma
Stars: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Loggia and F. Murray Abraham
Cuban Tony Montana (Pacino) comes to Miami with his best friend Manny (Bauer), where they hope to escape the destitution they experienced in their home country. Initially they work washing dishes but that doesn’t last long and they fall back on what they know best; crime. Starting off with petty jobs, they eventually meet Frank (Loggia), who takes them seriously. Frank has a beautiful young wife named Elvira (Pfeiffer), who Tony lusts after. After splitting with Frank, Tony has him killed and now he is the man in Miami. Using his new found connections he starts a vast criminal enterprise and makes more money than he could ever hope for. But success comes with a price, as he alienates Elvira and Manny and attracts the attentions of the FBI. Worst of all he has enraged a notorious South American drug lord named Sosa, which results in dire consequences.
The character of Tony Montana is probably Pacino’s most iconic performance. Ironically, when the film came out it was heavily panned and only gained favour years later with rappers, who identified with its ‘rags to riches’ storyline. The Golden Globes were the only awards to recognise the film, bestowing nominations on both Pacino and Bauer, as well as one for Best Score. One of only two worthwhile films he did in the eighties (the other being Sea of Love), this is definitely Pacino’s film.
Scarface was written by Oliver Stone, which explains the rampant violence, swearing and excess. Indeed, at the time this was the sweariest movie ever produced. The script is fantastic however and offers plenty of choice dialogue, that you can repeat with gusto on every viewing. Scarface is also full of classic scenes that burn themselves into your memory. These include the chainsaw in the hotel room, the nightclub shooting, the iconic ‘little friend’ and the infamous mountain of coke that he snorts from.
Scarface was loosely based on the classic 1932 film of the same name that starred Paul Muni as Tony and George Raft as the best friend. The difference between the two is vast, as the latter changes the ethnicity from Italian to Cuban and features every kind of depravity known to man, which they obviously couldn’t show in the thirties.
Although a classic film, it is much too long, with a running time of almost three hours. Many of the earlier scenes in particular are rather inconsequential and the movie would definitely have benefited from a snappier pace. One could perhaps view the length as a metaphor for the amount of excess taking place in the story, but it doesn’t make the time go any faster. Despite the overly long running time, Scarface is a diamond encrusted classic that gave Pacino and the world a much loved character and elevated Michelle Pfeiffer to the level of superstar.