Scarface (1983)

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Time to say “Hello to his little friend” as Al Pacino brings out one of his best performances in this 1980’s modern reboot of the gangster classic.

A refugee from Cuba, Antonio Montana has come to Miami, Florida. Along with best friends Manny, Angel, and Chi-Chi, they find themselves working for Frank Lopez, the city’s top drug lord. Assassinating a former government official, they are given their green cards, but they find themselves working odd jobs. That is until Frank’s right hand man Suarez has the group given them a chance to join the group by making a deal with Colombian dealers. However, when the deal goes bad, Tony and Manny successfully escape and find themselves now working full-time for Lopez.

Tony finds himself attracted to Elvira, Frank’s trophy wife and at the same time, learns his sister Gina has been coming to the clubs and having fun. The latter tends to bring Tony to the breaking point where he begins to assault anyone who messes with Gina. When Tony makes a deal with cocaine kingpin Alejandro Sosa, chaos ensues and Tony soon finds himself rising through the ranks as one of Miami’s top drug lords, and he will not care who stands in his way. However, with power comes consequences and just when Tony has it all, the world around him is set to crumble.

The 1932 gangster classic Scarface was quite an interesting take on an Italian mobster who finds himself rising through the ranks only to betray those close to him and yet become such an overprotective big brother to the point of madness. When Al Pacino pitched the idea to remake the film to his manager, who would go on to become the film’s producer, who would have imagined that an instant classic would be made because that’s exactly what happened.

Pacino has had many breakout roles from Michael Corleone in The Godfather to Sonny in Dog Day Afternoon. This film is just another notch in breakout roles for the veteran actor. The shift from gangster-era Chicago to Miami is a perfect fit for the remake, where instead of rising through the ranks of the classic gangster, Pacino’s Tony Montana rises through the ranks of a major drug cartel. While this may not exactly be perceived as some remake, it does hold true to three key elements from the original. They include the fact Montana sports a scar on his face, the fact he is an immigrant who goes from the bottom to the top only to learn there are consequences, and the fact that he is extremely overprotective of his little sister, here played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio.

A major factor that mesh the script by Oliver Stone and the direction Brian De Palma that doesn’t bring into mind the original are the inclusion of a key supporting figure who become Tony’s double-edged swords in terms of what he hopes to achieve. Michelle Pfeiffer is the trophy wife of Tony’s boss Lopez, played by Robert Loggia, who eventually becomes the object of Tony’s affections but ends up incurring the wrath of him when things slowly begin to unravel. As for Manny Ray, Tony’s best friend, played by Steven Bauer, he is truly reminiscent of Guido, George Raft’s character from the original film, due to his slow burn of a relationship with Ann Dvorak’s Cesca.

While the original clocked in at 93 minutes, this nearly 3-hour film is perfect for the story of the rise and fall of an immigrant’s attempt to live the American Dream only to learn there are consequences in his attempt to rise to the top and make the world his. A third version is currently in development with as the time of this review, Antoine Fuqua set to direct with Diego Luna playing Tony as a Mexican immigrant in the drug world of Los Angeles.

The 1983 version of Scarface is truly an instant classic with the key elements of the original being there and adds something extra in the drug world of Miami. Al Pacino is perfect at Tony Montana as we witness the rise and fall of a classic movie character.

WFG RATING: A

A Universal Pictures production. Director: Brian De Palma. Producer: Martin Bregman. Writer: Oliver Stone; based on the original screenplay by Ben Hecht and Howard Hawks; based on the novel by Armitage Trail. Cinematography: John A. Alonzo. Editing: Jerry Greenberg and David Ray.

Cast: Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Bauer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia, Mirian Colon, F. Murray Abraham, Paul Shenar, Harris Yulin, Ángel Salazar, Arnaldo Santana, Pepe Serna.

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