Scarface (1983)

Basically, don’t do coke.

Al Pacino plays two-bit Cuban hood Tony Montana, who makes his way into the U.S., where he and his friend Manny Ray (Stephen Bauer) soon enter the world of crime. They murder a political figure for drug dealer Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia) to get their green cards and are soon on his payroll. Tony’s elimination of rival Colmbian drug dealers gives him a more prominent role in the organization.

This is that film that everybody always praises and loves because it is just iconic. Every time you hear lines like “Say hello to mahhh litttle fienddd” or when somebody mispronounces “cockroach” this is the reason for it all. But it’s not as amazing as it legacy may show.

Director Brian De Palma does a great job here with re-amping this story and simply making it still tense but exciting to watch. As always, De Palma has a whole bunch of violence and bad language here that will probably shock a lot of people, but how De Palma films this with long tracking-shots, beautiful and vibrant colors to add to the dark material of the film, and the beautifully choreographed gunshots and violence is where De Palma really works well here. De Palma keeps a lot of scenes tense but then keeps that style he has for the other scenes, and make’s this film great to look at, while everybody’s cursing and getting shot.

The script from Oliver Stone has a lot of twists and turns that keep this film on it’s toes but his way of showing the decent of gangsters all-over-the-world and how they all start off well, but soon start to fall into a daze of problems until they can’t get out is very true and actually something a lot of gangster films do nowadays. You can tell that there’s a lot of the usual gangster-film conventions here that you always get, but somehow Stone makes it all seem new and fresh with his twists.

However, as bloody as the violence may be and no matter how bad these characters curse, I still didn’t find myself terribly riveted by this story, as well as not shocked one bit. I think the story kind of lost it’s way half-way throughout because it doesn’t really do much to support the characters around Tony while he’s falling into this huge-ass coke addiction. I didn’t hate Tony, I just didn’t understand why nobody tried to chill him off of that stuff for awhile, and why he kept making so many deals with all these major kingpins when he knew was soon going to be a wanted man. The film also needed some help with its editing because some scenes here don’t even feel needed, while others just linger on for about 10 minutes without any real meaning.

Although countless movie-goers were probably so taken aback by everything they saw on-screen here in 1983, 27 years later this film doesn’t really shock all that much since we have seen worse practically come out every Friday. I think the film was trying to push the envelope incredibly, which it did, but some of this violence just feels terribly gratuitous, just so De Palma could shock a couple of people, and I’m never down for shocking to be shocking.

It’s funny that the most Italiano man in the history of men, Al Pacino probably plays one of the best Cubans in a film ever. Al Pacino plays Tony Montana, and right from the get-go you know this guy is a smart-ass, hilarious, smart, but also very riveting and almost every scene this guy has you cannot take your eyes off of him at all. Pacino throws himself into this character and makes him seem like a larger-than-life character that may never die and could quite possibly take over the world. Some will say Pacino’s acting is over-the-top, but I say it’s one of the main reasons this film will always be remembered for the classic that it is and by also showing why Al Pacino is one of the best actors of all-time.

As much as I may talk ish on this film for not being amazing still 27 years later, I still have to say that this film is iconic with good reasons because it’s just great how everything looks. The dialogue, I will still find myself quoting 30 years from now at a lame adults b-day party, and the violence, I still find memorable and probably will always have it plastered into my mind. It’s crazy how certain films may not have it all to be a classic, but have just the right amount of whatever it is their doing right, to be awesome.

Consensus: Though it may not be as shocking 27 years later, Scarface is still a gangster classic with stylized action, quotable lines from start to finish, and a powerful lead performance from Al Pacino that shows his insane range he has as an actor, which almost makes me forget about 88 Minutes. But I still remember that piece of crap sadly.



  1. Don’t usually like gangster films, though this was powerful storytelling, and stayed with me. (however I could have done without the chain saw moment-I think they went too far there)

  2. I was wondering how this would come across without the nostalgia.

    On the straightforward film level, I think its still a good movie, it’s a rise and fall movie, gangster epic. And of course the one notable , actually praiseworthy element is Pacino, as you note… he is sick here! What an astonishing job he does. People forget.

    But this movie almost needs to be viewed differently. More like a pop culture piece of art than a movie. As you point out, every line is quotable. Every scene is a hysterical spoof worthy piece of entertainment. Its phenomenal. I love it.

    Glad to see it prevailed in the end… 8.5 is a pretty high grade around these parts! πŸ˜€

    • It’s the only grade I could give it without saying it was totally amazing and perfect. However, no matter what it will always be a fun and enjoyable piece of work made even better by Pacino. Thanks Dan!

  3. Still love this film a lot, after having seen it about 20 times. It also has nostalgic value for me, it was my favourite at the age of 12.

  4. Pacino – definitely the reason this film will live on. πŸ™‚

    Although for me, his accent is the least believable part of his characterization. I cringe every time Al opens his mouth.

    • He’s the man no matter what and even though he may seem a little cartoonish, Pacino still does not stop making this the total bad-ass. Thanks Deb!

  5. I didn’t like the parts of the movie especially since Howl Pacino renounced the subtlety that made him great in the 70’s. One day one of my straight friends will tie me to a chair and watch it in its entirety and I might just enjoy the Miami Vice-esque white suits, Michelle Pfeiffer and the apparently more excellent Paul Muni version. πŸ™‚

  6. It’s not without it’s flaws, but still an excellent film.
    In the 6th paragraph, you say that Pacino has a “cock addiction”. Not sure I remember that bit from the film! πŸ˜‰

  7. Definitely one of my all-time favorite movies. I just love everything about it.

    “Don’t kill me Tony, don’t kill me”. “I’m not going to kill you. Get off my feet”. “Oh thank you Tony, thank you”. “Manny, shoot this piece of shit!”.

    That’s one of those films I quote endlessly.

  8. Personally, I find this movie quite overhyped. Sure there is a few classic moments and lines due to Pacino overly flashy performance but overall, this is nowhere in the same league as Goodfellas, or The Godfather movies.

  9. Brilliant thoughts on a classic film Dan. I always love your work!!

    This bit…

    “Although countless movie-goers were probably so taken aback by everything they saw on-screen here in 1983, 27 years later this film doesn’t really shock all that much since we have seen worse practically come out every Friday.”

    Is very very true and sad how desensitized we are now.

  10. This is one of those movies I like to revisit every few years. I’m not as crazy about it as some of those rappers on MTV cribs seem to be, but it’s a great movie with an amazing performance by Pacino.

  11. ughhh i never liked this movie….pacinos flashy acting…strange accent and with this anoying charater was enough to give me a headache….and i am pretty sure that half of the scenes could be cut without losing much of the story

    the only think that i liked about the movie where the mindless action scenes…but if i am going to see a movie for that i would rather see something like commando…atleast that movies makes up an excuse for the action

    screw it i would give this movie around 3/10 if i would review it

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