Tuesday, November 8, 2011

#449. Scarface (1983)

Directed By: Brian De Palma

Starring: Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Bauer

Tag line: "He loved the American Dream. With a Vengeance"

Trivia:  This film is dedicated to Ben Hecht and Howard Hawks

Upon its release in 1983, Brian De Palma’s Scarface was labeled one of the most violent motion pictures ever made. Initially given an X rating by the MPAA, the film was attacked on several fronts for its frank depictions of torture and brutality. What its various detractors failed to mention in their diatribes, however, was the performance of Al Pacino, a turn that proved to be one of the decade's most iconic. 

Following his arrival in Miami, exiled Cuban immigrant Tony Montana (Pacino) goes to work for Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia), the top man in the local drug trade. Through loyalty and hard work, Tony slowly makes his way up the ladder of success, yet as his power increases, so does his ambition. He even goes so far as to make a play for Lopez’s long-time girlfriend, Elvira (Michelle Pfieffer), something that doesn't sit very well with his boss. But as Lopez, and everyone else, will soon learn, Tony is far too strong to be taken down now. 

Tony Montana is a dynamic character, and the reason why is Al Pacino. When Tony first arrives in the U.S., he's interrogated by several Customs Agents, and though he obviously has something to hide, he never once breaks a sweat. The self-confidence Pacino exudes in this scene borders on ultra-cockiness, as if fame and prosperity were already his for the taking. In his early days as an errand boy for Lopez, the big boss's right-hand man, Omar Suarez (F. Murray Abraham), underestimates Tony, saying the young immigrant looks too much like a ‘peasant’. But this ‘peasant’ was on his way to the top, and didn’t care who he had to crawl over to get there. Tony tells his longtime friend and partner, Manny (Steven Bauer) that all he wants is what’s coming to him. When Manny asks what that is, Tony replies “The world, and everything in it”. Throughout Scarface, Pacino plays Tony Montana as if he were a rabid dog, one whose bite is ten times worse than his bark. They say some men are born leaders. Tony Montana was born to be a gangster. 

Despite his powerhouse turn, Pacino was widely ignored at awards time (save one Golden Globe nomination).  I'm sure this had something to do with the film’s violence, which undoubtedly turned off a lot of voters. Never mind that it was the finest performance of the year: Tony Montana was a low-life gangster, making him far too hot to handle. 

Seriously...how pathetic is that?

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