Sunday, March 19, 2006

Say Hello To My Little Friend!

Watching Scarface, I couldn't help but think, 'damn this movie is slow.' Not to say it isn't a good movie, which it is, but the film is almost three hours long and for the first two thirds, you feel every minute of it. Tony Montana (Al Pacino) is a Cuban immigrant who, along with his friend Manny, become deeply rooted in the Miami cocaine business in an attempt to make it rich and live out the 'American dream' (lying, stealing, killing--whatever it takes to become powerful). Along the way, Tony survives various attempts on his life, crooked cops, and rises through the ranks to the head of his own crack empire. As good as his life seems to him, however, his obsession with staying on top leads to his downfall, as his wife (Michelle Pfieffer, perfect as a trophy wife) leaves him and he ends up killing Manny over his sister.

I was surprised to see that Tony actually did have somewhat of a moral compass, as he refused to kill a guy's wife and kids, even though that man was going to harm Tony's associates. This isn't what you'd normally find in a ruthless drug lord character. The final scene of the movie is one of cinema's most famous scenes, with Tony facing down a number of attackers in his mansion by himself. Of course, the murder of his sister allows him to kill over twenty guys by himself. Yes, the scene is over the top, but so is most of the movie, and it works well here and is an indication of the kind of over the top violence that became a trend in the 80's and early 90's. Another example of this is the movie's chainsaw scene, which takes place after a drug deal goes bad and is almost painful to watch. Proof of this violence is that the movie was given an X rating 3 times, until DePalma brought in a panel of law enforcement experts that convinced the MPAA that the movie was accurate and shoud be seen by a mass audience.

This is a remake of a 1932 movie of the same name, but I haven't seen that one so I can't compare the two. There also seem to be some similarities between Tony and real-life gangster Al Capone, like getting busted for tax evasion. DePalma dealt with Capone in The Untouchables, which i think is a better movie than Scarface.

Overall, the movie is definitely a product of the 80's, from the music and clothes to the over the top violence. It's definitely long, but still a good movie and worth watching.


Vladigogo said...

I have to admit I never saw Scarface until last year, and I have to agree with you, a bit on the long side.

However, there are some real interesting things going on with the nature of the American dream via Tony.

DePalma is an interesting director and his other 80s movies are worth watching. You mention The Untouchables, there is also Dressed to Kill (a Hitchcock rip off) and Body Double (which has a gruesome murder featuring a drill).

Brian said...

Yeah, Tony's way of achieving the American Dream is definitely a more twisted version than most people's. It's a huge step up from the other 'whatever it takes' attitudes other 80's movies have shown, like Bud or Joel's significantly less illegal actions in Wall Street and Risky Business.

Murder with a drill? ouch. DePalma certainly has some gory uses for power tools.