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

Brian De Palma’s Scarface is considered by many to be one of the most violent motion pictures ever made. Upon its release in 1983, the movie was given an X rating by the MPAA, and was attacked on several fronts for its frank depiction of torture and brutality. What some of its 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. 

A Cuban exile living in Miami, Tony Montana (Pacino) works for Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia), the top man in the city's drug trade. Through loyalty and hard work, Tony slowly moves up the ladder of success, yet as his power increases, so does his ambition. Tony even goes so far as to make a play for Lopez’s long-time girlfriend, Elvira (Michelle Pfieffer), something that doesn't sit well with his boss. But as Lopez, and the rest of Miami, will soon discover, there's no stopping Tony Montana! 

Tony Montana is a dynamic character, and Al Pacino's performance is the reason why. When Tony first arrives in the U.S., he is interrogated by several Customs Agents, and though he obviously has plenty to hide, never once does he break a sweat. The self-confidence Pacino exudes in this scene crosses into ultra-cockiness, as if money and fame 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), underestimated Tony, saying the young immigrant looked too much like a ‘peasant’. But this ‘peasant’ was on his way to the top, and didn’t care who he had to step on 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, 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 the film’s violence turned off a lot of voters, or maybe it was Pacino's penchant for going over-the-top, though I would argue he could do no less. Tony Montana was not a subtle, introspective character. 

It was the most intense performance of the year, but in the end, Tony Montana was a low-life, out-of-control gangster, and that made him too hot to handle. 

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why so many believe awards voters are so very, very clueless!

No comments: