Dir: Brian De Palma. 1983. Starring: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Loggia, F. Murray Abraham. Action.

As the U.S. is flooded by Cuban refugees, forced out by Fidel Castro, two criminals land in a detention camp in Miami. They are Tony Montana (Pacino) and his right-hand-man, Manny Ribera (Bauer). The two men assassinate a political target inside the camp and it opens the door for them into the drug syndicate in Florida. The story of Scarface is that of the rise of Tony Montana to become the predominant drug lord of his time.

Inspired by Howard Hawk’s 1932 Gangster classic by the same name, Oliver Stone’s screenplay has coined some of the most used nomenclature in cinema. “Say hello to my little friend” may be the most imitated line of screen dialogue in history. Having won an Academy Award previously for writing Midnight Express, Stone certainly understood the drug culture of the time. His script captures a raw truth in the way people speak and treat each other, out of their minds, railed on blow. Structurally, the film is very classically designed, much like a Greek tragedy. It explores the ambition necessary to wear the crown of power and the violent end that comes to all those who do.

While many films of the 1980’s age poorly due to synthesized scores and obnoxious customs, Scarface manages to make those things work for it. Brian De Palma directs the film in such an over-the-top, operatic style, the cheesiness all plays together in perfect harmony.

Al Pacino (Righteous Kill) delivers perhaps the most famous role of his career, with a delightfully cartoonish swagger, loud mouth, and animalistic rage. There are few roles that have so shaped popular culture in its wake. His turn-on-a-dime rageis  the central point of his character. Especially when it comes to his younger sister, Gina (Mastrantonio), who he watches like a hawk, with a twisted sense of love.

Michelle Pfeiffer (Stardust) is perfectly cast in an early role as a cocaine-addled cold-hearted trophy wife of mobster Frank Lopez (Loggia). Loggia is wonderful as a kingpin with a lot of bravado, but no spine. Serious problems arise when Tony desires to take Frank’s woman and place in the crime food chain. Academy Award winner, F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), provides one of the best two-faced scumbags in the history of crime film.

It has twenty-five years since Scarface was released, and it still stands as the quintessential drug-dealing movie. It not only defined the greed and social turmoil of a decade, but also gave cinema one of the most iconic representations of the American dream, gone sour.

Posted by:
Seamus Smith
Sep 13, 2008 2:44pm
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