Dan Gertler reviews: Scarface

“Say hello to my little friend!” says Tony Montana before he blasts the screen with a massive gunshot in one of the best action-gangster movies ever made. This Brian De Palma film was released in 1983 and for what it lacks in special effects it makes up in unforgettable visual scenes and a gangster that since became a cultural icon. It’s probably no accident that Al Pacino, whom we all know as Michael Corleone (“The Godfather”), comes back to us, this time as a human, but ruthless, gangster.

Tony is a Cuban thug whose only wish is to get rich and powerful and to do it fast. When in 1981 the doors of the U.S. were open to Cuban refugees Tony makes his way to the States. On his way he takes part in Fidel Castro’s little revenge plan as he stabs to death a political prisoner. From there Tony’s brutal violence continues as he quickly climbs the gangster ladder by dealing drugs and killing anyone who stands in his way. After killing enough people Tony starts to get what he wanted. He marries his (now dead) boss’s girlfriend, Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer), buys his sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) all the clothes she wants, and makes his best friend and partner, Manny (Steven Bauer), a very rich man. But things unravel as fast as they were built. Elvira becomes addicted to cocaine, Manny wants out, and several massive assassination attempts are made at Tony.

Al Pacino in Scarface

The only honest thing Tony Montana says in the film is “I always tell the truth. Even when I lie”. His character is all about keeping up with appearance. He has the house, the girl, the money, and the drugs. Hell, he even has an actual tiger in his back yard. But Tony is really nothing more than what he owns, and that understanding is what makes him and everyone around him miserable. The beauty of tony Montana, and all the other characters for that matter, is just that: they are real. There is no stereotypical mob boss, no good guys, and no sexy but smart women. Even the last scene where Tony pulls out a ridiculously loud and extravagant grenade-launcher gun gives a sense of realism. The graphic violence that governs the film is not meant to thrill the audience. It is an honest attempt to give the audience a chance to glance at the depth of the criminal mind, with all its brutality, emptiness, fake glory, and misery.

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