Dennis suggests Carlito’s Way (in Action). I hate Scarface. Hate. I would go so far as to say that Scarface is perhaps the most overrated film of all time (along with contenders Gone With the Wind, The Deer Hunter, Forrest Gump, A Beautiful Mind, Schindler’s List, The English Patient, and essentially 90% of best picture Oscar winners). Director Brian De Palma and star Al Pacino earn most of the blame, with each indulging in his most regrettable, lurid, over-the-top excesses, which wannabe
gangtsas and the easily impressed continue to mistake for ‘style’ and ‘talent’ to this day. Scarface sucks. So, when I heard that De Palma and Pacino were reteaming to make yet another gangster film about yet another Latino hard guy, I was less than pleased, shall we say. But, whaddayaknow, the expected hammy flashfest turned out to be a pretty dignified, restrained little number, with Pacino turning in one of his most underrated performances, and De Palma somehow restraining himself, for the most part. As Carlito Brigante, a one-time drug kingpin trying to stay out of the life upon his release from prison, Pacino saunters through the picture with a cool, understated elegance and a smooth internal monologue, revealing again why, when he’s on, he can hold the screen like nobody else (even without histrionics or hammy catchphrases). Sean Penn is along as a sleazy, coked-up lawyer (with an awesome frizz cut), and is entertainingly wired for most of the movie, while a decent supporting cast (John Leguizamo, Viggo Mortensen, Adrian Pasdar, Luiz Guzman) provide authentic foils for Brigante’s would-be reformation. (I’d say ‘forget Penelpoe Ann Miller’ as Pacino’s vapid love interest, but, judging by the blank look on your face as your read the name, I’d say you’ve already done that, so…) And De Palma, as flashy and excessive a director as Ken Russell, actually remains as unobtrusive as is possible for him, and lets the performances breathe a little. A decent little movie, with a quiet, understated performance from Pacino. And while you’ll never see a dimwit walking out of Hot Topic wearing his new Carlito’s Way hoodie as he slouches towards the food court, well, that’s a good thing.