- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Jamey Codding
ny list of classic guy movies would be incomplete without an appearance from Brian De Palma's "Scarface." The film that supplies immortal quotes like, "I always tell the truth, even when I lie," and "Say hello to my little friend!" also gives life to one of the most magnetic characters in movie history, Cuban refugee Tony Montana. Written by Oliver Stone, "Scarface" is an addictive story about greed, loyalty, triumph and tragedy. Oh yeah, and guns. Lots and lots of guns.
Al Pacino stars as Montana, a criminal who, along with 125,000 fellow Cubans, fled his homeland in 1980 with hopes of claiming his own slice of the American Dream in Miami. But freedom isn't so great for Tony and his best friend Manny Ribero (Steven Bauer) once they reach American soil. First, they're thrown into a Cuban detention center, a quaint little place called "Freedomtown" that sits under I-95 in North Miami. A few months later, they're working in a food stand. Says Tony, "I didn't come to the United States to break my fucking back."
But their luck turns when they meet a local cocaine kingpin named Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia), who eventually makes Tony an important figure in his operation. The only problem is, Tony's much too ambitious and soon starts doing jobs on the side to make some extra cash. Then he negotiates a major deal with Bolivian drug lord Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar) without Frank's authorization. And to top it off, not only does Tony intend to take over the boss's business, but he also has his eyes on Frank's girl, Elvira Hancock (Michelle Pfeiffer).
Pacino is extraordinary as Tony, playing the ruthless title character to astonishing perfection. With an actor as accomplished as Pacino, it's nearly impossible to pinpoint his finest career performance, but it's reasonably safe to assume that his work in "Scarface" ranks near the top of his impressive list. Despite Tony's obvious moral deficiencies, Pacino impels you to pull for him through the rise and fall of his own empire by giving Tony unmistakable depth. One moment, he's a ravenous criminal determined to ruin anybody who threatens to topple his extravagant dreams; the next, he's an overprotective brother who only wants the best for his little sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio). Because this is a story of evil vs. evil that offers no true "good guy," Pacino straddles the fence throughout, deftly playing both flawed hero and cruel villain while never wholly committing to either role.
The supporting characters are superb as well, led by Manny, who loves American women, and Elvira, who loves Bolivian cocaine. Bauer and Pfeiffer are both flawless in their respective roles, representing Tony's defective support system, but Pfeiffer is especially spectacular as the callous and acerbic Elvira. She's gorgeous, as always, but we learn that underneath her aura of invincibility and indifference hides a layer of extreme vulnerability, which is why she migrated from Frank to Tony in the first place.
Truly great films endure because they appeal to past, present and future generations, and "Scarface" is no different. Two decades after its original release, this Pacino masterpiece continues to thrive because of its exceptional performances, gripping storyline and compelling script. There are no fancy special effects to grab your attention, no high-tech gadgets either. Just brilliant writing and acting. Oh, and guns. Lots and lots of guns.
Limited Edition Blu-ray Review:
First of all, if you’re going to buy “Scarface” on Blu-ray and you’ve got money to burn, then the only way to go is the limited-edition version that comes in a humidor. Sure, it’s $699.99 (and that’s on Amazon: it actually retails for $999.99), but for a real “Scarface” fan, it’s the conversation piece to end all conversation pieces. However, if you’re working on a more limited budget but still want to be able to say that your version is limited edition, then you may want to consider the steelbook version, which, while not quite as impressive as a humidor, still contains all the really important stuff.
First and foremost, you get a bonus DVD of the original 1932 “Scarface.” Why they couldn’t just go the extra mile and put it onto Blu-ray as well, God only knows, but at least you still get to see the original film and witness just how much time and gangster films have changed over the years. On the Blu-ray itself, there are a plethora of documentaries, first and foremost being “The Scarface Phenomenon,” which looks into the history of the film and how it evolved from being critical maligned into a cult hit. From the original DVD release, “The World of Tony Montana,” “The Creating,” “The Rebirth,” and “The Acting” have been carried over, and there’s a hysterical look at “Scarface: The TV Version.” (“How’d you get that scar, from eating pineapple?”) There are also 22 minutes worth of deleted scene, a featurette about the making of the “Scarface: The World Is Yours” video game, and a unique picture-in-picture experience where you can get insight on the film while watching it. (Be sure to enjoy the “Scarface” Scoreboard, which counts off the number of F-bombs that are dropped during the course of the film.) Lastly, the package include a series of 10 collectible art cards and a digital copy.