Scarface (1983) exemplifies the American dream. Nothing has received a bigger critical reevaluation than Scarface. At first it was hated for its excessive violence, profanity, and drug use. Scarface wasn’t even nominated for a single Academy Award. Acclaimed director Brian De Palma was actually nominated for a Razzie Award. So how did Scarface become one of the greatest gangster films of all time? I’m also turned off by its excess, but I understand why it resonates with so many people. Leading to countless pop culture references, a video game, and hip hop influence. Scarface is a remake that learns a lot from what came before. Gangster mainstay Al Pacino was drawn to the original, but writer Oliver Stone didn’t want an Italian mob picture.
The renamed Tony Montana became a Cuban refugee in 1980’s Miami. Alcohol prohibition became drug trafficking, but the American dream remained very much intact. Tony lives by “The World is Yours” as he goes from poor dishwasher without a green card to powerful drug lord. First he needs the money, then he’ll get the power, and then he’ll get the women. Pacino isn’t Cuban, but his exaggerated volatility makes Tony iconic. 2 hours & 50 minutes is more than enough time to take in the scope of his journey. Steven Bauer is the only Cuban to play Tony’s loyal friend Manny. The respectable Robert Loggia and F. Murray Abraham play their mentor Frank Lopez and his right-hand Omar. A relatively unknown Michelle Pfeiffer makes her presence known as Frank’s beautiful blonde trophy wife Elvira.
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio similarly makes an impression with her film debut as Tony’s sister Gina. Their overprotective relationship is more screwed up, but not explicitly incestious. Scarface still pushes the boundaries even 5 decades after the original. There are several bloody shootouts, a torture scene involving a chainsaw, a record 207 F bombs, and mountains of cocaine. Tony becomes the bad guy when he seizes Frank’s position, marries Elvira, and offs anyone in his way. The more villainous drug dealer Alejandro Sosa turns on Tony after he fails to do a job for him. Tony gets high on his own supply and becomes increasingly paranoid. The explosive climax is a big part of cinematic history. As the coke fueled Tony Montana says the iconic phrase “Say hello to my little friend,” he lives long enough to hold off Sosa’s men. Scarface is a cautionary tale that takes an excessive lifestyle to its furthest extreme.
Remake of: Scarface (1932)