SELLING AL PACINI SCARFACE GOLD EDITION ON 4K/UHD WITH BLU RAY VERSION
fter a quarter of a century, a return to the big screen now further magnifies the brutal unsubtlety of Brian de Palma's 1983 gangster movie, itself a reworking of Howard Hawks's 1932 film. De Palma and screenwriter Oliver Stone cleverly transpose the action to Fidel Castro's "Mariel" expulsion of jailbirds from Cuba in 1980. Among the dodgy flotsam winding up in Miami is Tony "Scarface" Montana, ferociously played by cock-of-the-walk Al Pacino, shrilly insisting on his anti-communist political status, but thirsting for sex, money and blood. Tony parlays a successful hit job on an old Havana compañero of Fidel's into a connection with the local drug lord - and from there his inexorably growing addictions to power and cocaine propel him to the top, and over it.
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Pacino's performance is always intensely watchable (although even in 1983 he is developing his mannerism of ending a scene by shouting throwaway lines over his shoulder as he swaggers off) and his very first scene, under interrogation by US immigration cops, is a cracker. The early career of Tony and his buddies in sunny, breezy Miami Beach is nice to watch and De Palma's handling of Tony's first bungled drug deal is tremendous: with the camera drifting enigmatically back and forth between the motel room carnage to the waiting getaway car. But there is also something a little stately about the dramatic pace and that 1980s synth score, and also a quaint sort of Kung Fu/Bond movie aesthetic to Scarface, with its lairs and spotlit country homes, its perimeter fences and its dozens of disposable henchmen fatally greeting Tony's "little friend". (Incredibly, two new movies this week reference the famous line and a third is a reworking of the basic Scarface plot.)
I am struck once again by the strange facial similarity between Tony's wife Elvira, played by Michelle Pfeiffer and his sister, Gina, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Deliberate psychological insight? Or a just an accident of style? The movie is dwarfed by Raging Bull and GoodFellas at either end of the decade, and I'm not sure if it really is a satire on America's new Reaganite dawn, but it's still a must-see for Pacino's potent and influential performance.
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