Scarface (1983)

scarface

“Say hello to my little friend!”

The Scoop: 1983 R, directed by Brian DePalma and starring Al Pacino, Robert Loggia and Michelle Pfeiffer.

Tagline: He was Tony Montana. The world will remember him by another name…SCARFACE.

Summary Capsule: A violent, ambitious Cuban immigrant takes over the Florida drug trade in pursuit of the American dream.  And possibly wants to have sex with his sister.

Al’s rating: Please ignore my first sentence.  It was all I could do to break my writer’s block.

Al’s review: A priest, a rabbi, and a whale walk into a bar.  The whale says, “Have you guys seen Scarface?  If you haven’t, you probably should.”

Lucky for me (and the whale, I guess), Scarface is a movie with enough street cred that I don’t really have to try and pin down a reason that’ll convince you.  I mean, it isn’t a particularly original story: an ambitious young punk joins a crime syndicate, rises to the top, takes over the city, then trips and falls over his own character flaws—think Grand Theft Auto: The Movie.  There also isn’t really anybody involved that you’d want to root for.  Our lead is a hero by virtue of the fact he has the slightest crumb of a moral code, unlike the rest of the two-bit thugs, crooked cops, and gold-digging bimbos.  Even the message of the movie seems to be, “If you’re going to become the drug kingpin of Miami, you shouldn’t do lots of blow and piss off the Colombians.”  In other words, it’s a flick that, in one sense, doesn’t sound like it has a whole lot going for it.

Fortunately for Scarface, it’s also a damn lot of fun.  I’m not always a fan of the screaming, ranting, “HOO-AH!” Al Pacino, but if you’re going to go in that direction, Tony Montana is the best evidence that Al will forever be winnah and still champeen.  When you hear critics talk about something that ‘pops,’ they’re talking about Tony Montana.  He is a character that just leaps out at you.  He is instantly memorable and you can’t take your eyes off him.  He’s loud and he’s crude and he’s aggressive as hell.  He’s funny and ballsy.  He’s even very nearly admirable in his determination to get what he feels is rightfully his (the world and everything in it).  Tony is almost a walking caricature, but Pacino makes sure you never doubt his authenticity.  In a film full of great actors playing great roles, he absolutely dominates every moment of Scarface.

Another part of the fun is the proud and unapologetic violence of this movie, which is probably why it tanked so badly at the box office.  Lots of it seems tame by today’s standards, but, make no mistake, Scarface revolutionized gangster movies in 1983, the same way Bonnie and Clyde did in the sixties and Pulp Fiction did in the nineties.  Tony Montana is a killer.  He doesn’t kill without reason, but he will kill without hesitation.  The movie doesn’t try to soften it or explain it.  It doesn’t try to justify it.  It just presents it as one part of a man who is very simple and yet very complex.  Of course, you don’t need to think about any of that to enjoy a guy coked out of his mind, standing on a balcony, spraying his assault rifle down on hordes of invading assassins.

So, like I said, I’m not really going to try and convince you to watch Scarface.  If you’ve managed to find our little corner of the web, then you’re probably smart enough to know if it’s something that’ll be up your alley.  But, love it or hate it, this is a movie that’s become an institution.  You can say, “The guy was strutting around like he was Scarface,” and everyone in the room will grasp your meaning.  It’s spawned at least a half-dozen quotes that everyone knows by heart, an entire hip-hop subculture that still dominates the industry, and a thousand different posters that grace a hundred thousand dorm-room walls.  And if you can’t trust a hundred-thousand college guys to a recommend a good movie for Saturday night, then who the heck can you trust?

This goes right in between the one of John Belushi drinking Jack Daniels and “My Goodness, My Guinness!”

Intermission!

  • According to the “scorecard” feature on the Platinum Edition DVD, the f-bomb and its derivatives are spoken 226 times for an average of 1.32 uses per minute for 170 minutes.  Adding in all other profanities in the film, there is approximately one curse word every 36 seconds.
  • Speaking of Grand Theft Auto III, all the songs on Flashback 95.6 (the game’s “80s Pop” radio station) are from the Scarface soundtrack.
  • Although the film is called Scarface, we only hear Tony referred to that way once, and it’s in Spanish.
  • Is it just me or is Gina sorta hideous-looking at the disco?
  • The chainsaw scene is famous for it’s violence and yet, you really don’t see much of anything on screen at all.
  • This “Push It To the Limit” montage is one of my all-time favorites.
  • If I ever get rich, I am absolutely getting an enormous, gold and black office with a monogrammed chair.
  • Tony’s “little friend” is an M16 assault rifle with an M203 40mm grenade launcher attached to the barrel.
  • This Scarface is a loose remake of 1932’s Scarface: Shame of a Nation, about the life of Al Capone. The movie is dedicated to Howard Hawkes and Ben Hecht, who wrote the 1932 film.
  • Alledgedly, Robert De Niro and John Travolta were offered the roles of Tony Montana and Manny Ribera. A De Niro/Travolta Scarface? I can’t even imagine.

Groovy Quotes

Tony Montana: I kill a communist for fun, but for a green card, I gonna carve him up real nice.

Tony Montana: You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fingers and say, “That’s the bad guy.” So… what that make you? Good? You’re not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie. Me, I don’t have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you. Come on. Make way for the bad guy. There’s a bad guy comin’ through! Better get outta his way!

Frank Lopez: Lesson number one: Don’t underestimate the other guy’s greed!
Elvira: Lesson number two: Don’t get high on your own supply.

Tony Montana: You wanna f— with me? Okay.  You wanna play rough? Okay.  Say hello to my little friend!

Tony Montana: In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.

Tony Montana: All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don’t break them for no one.

Elvira: Nothing exceeds like excess.

Tony Montana: Me, I want what’s coming to me.
Manny: Oh, yeah?  What’s coming to you?
Tony Montana: The world, chico.  And everything in it.

If You Liked This Movie, Try These:

  • Dog Day Afternoon
  • Carlito’s Way
  • The Departed

3 comments

  1. I completely agree with the review. I think it’s possible Al Pacino’s best performance because he completely disappears into the character, you have to remind yourself sometimes it’s Al Pacino you’re watching. Also, how about a shout out to Oliver Stone for the screenplay. This could not have been an easy movie to write.

  2. “All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don’t break them for no one.”- my fav quote.

    it is hard to imagine anyone that hasn’t seen scarface or doesn’t know what its about.

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