on May 31, 2004
After watching the documentary on this 20th Anniversary Special Edition DVD of Brian De Palma's SCARFACE detailing how this movie has been an influence on gangsta rappers, I could certainly understand why this movie has become a gangster film classic. It certainly has a memorable main character, Tony Montana, masterfully played by the ever-so-versatile Al Pacino. Montana is a magnetic but deeply flawed individual who gets lucky, gets rich, and then gets greedy (which destroys him), and Pacino does a good job in bringing out the man's magnetism without making us truly like him exactly. And on a technical level it is well-made, with bright, colorful cinematography by John Alonzo to accentuate the '80s flash (and perhaps its lack of substance).
And yet after the final gun battle was over and Tony Montana had received his deadly comeuppance, the overall impression I got out of SCARFACE was of a generally unremarkable, overlong action movie with some heavy-handed, unsubtle drama beneath. I guess I just didn't buy the bloated operatic style De Palma employed in this film, and as usual with some of his speeches, screenwriter Oliver Stone has the subtlety of a sledgehammer (sometimes it works, but sometimes it makes you wince, like it does here). "Nothing exceeds like excess," says Michelle Pfeiffer's character Elvira in the movie, and De Palma seems to have followed that in SCARFACE---to the film's detriment, I think. THE GODFATHER and GOODFELLAS are undoubtedly still your best bet if you are looking for great gangster movies. SCARFACE seems distinctly second-rate in that company, despite Pacino's notable performance (and I didn't mind his Cuban accent at all).
on May 15, 2004
But the merit of de Palma is the updating, from booze market in Chicago, to drugs market in Florida, which should have sent some message to the people pretending to be 'in charge'. The sad thing is not many politicitians have yet understood (of course, I'm not talking about the ones who get their cut) that the 'Prohibition' Laws only succeeded in creating the Mafia economical power, and that anything "forbidden" has a very strong appeal for many who would not care very much for something they could find in Wal'Mart; and, even if they still wanted it then, freer and cheaper availability would make life a lot safer for those risking to be mugged and/or killed so they can help junkies to get cash for their dose: just ask people in Holland (where life is not more depraved than in Miami, but much safer).
For those who like History, 18th Amendment started not long before Mr. W. H. Hays took office in Hollywood, but finished much sooner: there was sure no shortage of stupidity in the ruling class at the time, and the results of their malfeasences are still effective.
on January 27, 2004
Maybe I bought the wrong version. When I got it at BB there was only one version I think. I believe I got the full screen version but not sure now. All I know is I saw this on an import (bootleg?) dvd a couple of years ago and it looked terrible on a 32" 4:3 crt. About half the screen was blocked out due to the original aspect ratio and the crummy transfer. Well at least with the full screen version there is no letter boxing or blocking but the aspect ration is still screwed up. It didn't look right on my 60" Sony no matter what WIDE mode I was in. I ended up watching it in Wide Zoom and still got some picture distortion on certain angle shots. Also, there are some really fuzzy grainey scenes from time to time throughout the movie.
Never really got the buzz this movie was about when it came out. I get it even less now. It is dated to be sure. FX's were not that good for 1983 and look worse now. Guns and gun handling looks pretty good though. At least no one is trying to help the bullets out of the gun or trying to shoot from slide lock. No sex really. A couple of exposed breasts and one nipple. Lots of blood and guns and piles of coke. Michelle Pfeiffer looks pretty hot. Mary Mastrontonio looks like Rosanne Rosanna Danna and Al Pacino has a bad accent. That's about it. I guess it's one of those movies you have to see at least once to see what all the fuss is about and this is the best looking video release thus far, warts and all.
on December 28, 2003
Brian De Palma's "Scarface" is a violent, expletive-filled bloodfest that, in the years that have passed since its 1983 release, has attained a cult-like following, especially with the gangsta-rap community. It's unfortunate to think that no film in recent memory
has had a more negative effect on the society of America, especially the younger generation, than "Scarface". Yet the 20th anniversary edition DVD seems to celebrate it, with a segment featuring hip-hop performers talking about how much the film has influenced their lives and the music they make because of it.
The film itself is marginally above average, saved only by Al Pacino's inspired performance as Cuban refugee Tony Montana, who defects to Miami and gradually gains the status as one of the world's largest cocaine dealers, until his excessive lifestyle does him in at the end. This is the only DVD I have ever had to watch with the subtitles ON, as most of the dialogue, while spoken in English, is generally undecipherable. It also stars a young Michelle Pfeiffer as Elvira, the girlfriend of a rival druglord who eventually marries Pacino's character, though there is not one ounce of believability that she loves the guy- we never really see a courtship between them, then suddenly, one day, they tie the knot.
The soundtrack, supplied by Giorgio Moroder, is among the cheesiest I've ever heard, and the story by Oliver Stone(of course)tries to fit way too much into the film's near three hour running time. As a result, the plot feels rushed- of course, one way to tie up all the loose plot ends is to kill everyone, which is exactly what happens. "Scarface" is not the worst film I've seen, but it's no "Godfather", and what makes it so appealing to gangsta-rappers is something that mystifies me.
on October 27, 2003
I had not seen Brian DePalma's "Scarface" since I saw it in the theater 20 years ago. What I thought I remembered from back then was that I absolutely loved it. But having watched it a second time on the 20th anniversary DVD recently, it just didn't grab me that way. Not even close.
I don't know if it was Al Pacino's over-the-top Cuban accent, the stiffness of Steven Bauer as his pal Manny or Mary Elizabeth Mastriantonio's fright wig of a hairdo, but Scarface didn't do it for me this time. But I would guess that the primary reason is that it just seemed to move in slowwwww motion for me. I've seen better stories with more action told in much less time in the 20 year period since this came out.
I also agree with another viewer who doesn't get the rap persona this movie has and the heavy rap influence on the Bonus DVD (I understand that when this DVD was being planned, the studio wanted DePalma to replace some of the soundtrack in the movie with rap songs - DePalma wisely declined). I just read an interview with a rapper who wants his life to be "just like Scarface's". Note to rapper - you need to watch the final 10-15 minutes of this movie again!
It's not horrible, but three hours that you could spend watching Pacino classics like either of the first two Godfather classics.
on October 26, 2003
I am a big fan of the movie "Scareface", so I was expecting this Anniversary Edition DVD to be flawless. I was wrong.
First off, I can barely see the text and graphics on the cover. Did universal forget to change their print cartridges? Perhaps they thought us Americans are too stupid to notice the difference. If you compare the original "Scareface" DVD cover to the new Anniversary Edition cover you can see the difference. The text and graphics on the original DVD case insert can be seen just fine, while the text and graphics on the new Anniversary Edition's DVD case insert is very dim and cheap. This means universal was in a rush to throw these out on the shelves. No attention to detail here.
Also someone please tell me what does rap music have to do with this movie? The bonus DVD has interviews and deleated scenes which are ok, but I just don't get the hip-hop def jamz garbage. Along with the interviews and deleated scenes, you'll also find interviews with rappers. Why not interview three year olds instead?
The new Anniversary Edition DVD does come in both full-screen and widescreen version's, which I very much enjoyed as I am getting sick of these widescreen ONLY formats. I refuse to go out a buy a new $8,000 SILVER widescreen TV just to accommodate these silly movie companies! Hollywood needs to make their DVD's both in FULL and WIDESCREEN format's!
That's about it. This is the same movie only with alot of unnecessary junk and a very poor DVD case insert! On the plus side you get to choose from either widescreen or full-screen DVD version's which I think is really cool. Why did it take so long for these geniuses at Hollywood to figure this out? Probably to get everyone to buy widescreen TV's! If you don't care about the full-screen format or the extras which really aren't all that great, stick with the original "Scareface" DVD (if you can find it).
on October 9, 2003
In 1983, I was 18 and remember being blown away by Brian DePalma's gangster epic Scarface, Twenty years later I'm not so sure what the fuss was about. The story is familiar to just about everyone. Tony Montana (Al Pacino) comes to America as part of the Cuban boat lift with literally nothing. He kills a Communist in Feedom City and becomes friends with Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia) Miami's leading cocaine dealer. The film arc at this point follows the story line of the 1932 Howard Hawks film of the same title and Montana rises to be a powerful drug lord. Eventually getting in trouble because of his own need to achieve he is then brutally murdered by the Columbian cartel. Limited support for Pacino's over the top portrayal comes from best fiend Manny (Stephen Bauer) and a very young Michelle Pieffer who plays love interest Elvira.
The 20th Anniversary Edition presents the film in widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound. The picture looks great thanks to the late John A. Alonzo's cinematography but I felt that the sound left a little to be desired.
The performances have become legendary and Pacino carries the film with his completely over the top portrayal. Supporting players do little more than allow him to show off his acting ability.
Is this grat cinema? After 20 years reflection, my answer would be no but it is a good genre film. The problem is that when this movie came out it was completely innovative in terms of violence and language. Today, we have simply seen this before. The 2:50 length also detracts. There are places in the film where it seems to crawl. Overall, the film is good but it simply is not what I remembered from twenty years ago. Perhaps I'm just getting old.
The special features comprise an entire disc but offer nothing spectacular. The best feature is a series of making of type documentaries hosted by producer Martin Bregman with interviews with Oliver Stone, Pacino, Bauer, and film composer Georgio Morodor. This feature discusses the film from its origins to actual filming and ratiting difficulties. There is also a television edits reel that is more funny than enlightening. A twenty minute deleted scenes feature offers little since there is no context in which to view these scenes and no director commentary.
Def Jam has added a feature explaining why the film has become a Hip Hop classic and features many performer interviews. This feature is interesting and offers a look inside the rap industry.
Overall this would be a good rental if you're not an absolute fan. A piece of cultural history maybe but not what I remembered.
on October 2, 2003
It is not a subtle story Brian DePalma and Oliver Stone are telling in "Scarface," nor is it a subtle metaphor; the saga of exiled Cuban criminal Tony Montana (Al Pacino) zooming to the top of the American capitalist structure with his drug empire, then plunging, seemingly belly flop first, into death is a beat-you-with-a-hammer version of "The Godfather."
The ruthlessness of the film makes it particularly popular in our more ruthless times - the hip-hop nation, led by mogul P. Diddy's claim that he wishes he could watch it 24 hours a day, seems especially plugged in to whatever moral Stone and DePalma are trying to pitch, so much so, a documentary on its effect is included in the DVD package. To be fair to Stone, his scripts remained defiant and ambitious. He just directed them better.
Looking at it again, 20 years later, the movie has painfully dated in some ways, not in others. Pacino's performance is still foolishly over-the-top - sadly, his portrayal of the cartoonish, slurring Montana seemed to inform just about every job he's done since by getting THIS LOUD every time a minutely important moment occurs on screen, the restrained examples being "Sea of Love" and "Donnie Brasco" - while the rise/fall plotline follows too direct, simplistic a line. The shades played out in the "Godfather" trilogy, "Once Upon a Time in America" and the Pacino/DePalma reteam in "Carlito's Way" are not there in Montana. He's straight crazy, a surviving virus finally met with himself by movie's end, only with more guns.
More memorable now is the performance by Mary Stuart Mastrantonio, as Tony's sister, a sweet girl pulled further into Tony's world until she is of it and able to play just a dangerous game as Tony after her lover (and Tony's partner) Manolo (Steven Bauer) is killed by Tony, ostensibly because Tony would in secret prefer his sister for himself.
The enduring legacy of "Scarface," as shown clearly in the hip-hop documentary, is that it's big, bold, violent, filled with ugly mantras ("the power, the money, the women") material items, gorgeous women and hidden passions, such as incest, that only within the reach of a true showstopper psycho like Tony. Though Montana dies, Pacino packs so much bravado in his death that even that moment is glorified as a fitting end - that to have it all, lose it all, die and do it with a strut is the key to a short, happy life. The more recent "Blow" isn't nearly as exciting, but its lines aren't blurred; "Scarface," intentionally, I think, cheerfully endorsed Tony in 1983, and still does. It's entertainment, extremely well-filmed entertainment, but ugly, and at its core, rotten. It's admirable and loathsome in equal portions.
on September 25, 2003
Love it or hate it, "Scarface" will stay with you long after your done watching it. Al Pacino gives a very wildly intense out of control maniac preformance. He likes to shout a lot, and he has those shifty eyes that never sit still. He plays Tony Montana, a refugy from Castro's Cuba recently transplanted to Miami. He quickly rises in the cocaine world, but becomes cocky, over-confident, and completly hooked on drugs. "Don't get high on your own supply," his new girl-friend tells him; but he ignores the advice. The movie is about a darker side of the American Dream. He starts out with nothing, works hard, and makes millions, but it in a dirty buissness, and the final stake he has to lose is his spirit and humanity, and he gives it away witha smile for his money, cars, drugs, and girls. That his fall is inevidible is not the point, watching it happen is what we're suppose to pay attention to. And there lies the problem, it's so absolute and pain stakingly documented that it's depressing and leaves you feeling down when it over. There was no one to root for; even usual nice guy Al is pretty slimy. It's a powerful movie, of that there is no dipute, but it's it the reveling in it's hollowness and excess that is just too much.
on October 26, 2003
I saw this movie for the very first time tonight and I have to say it is not that great at all. I'll admit Al Pacino is an amazing actor and he does give a really good performance, but the story is really lacking. I mean, how can we find these people interesting in the first place, he never really showed remorse for becoming what he was towards the end, and as far as violence goes this movie isnt THAT violent. Most of it is the usual lame "drug talk." michelle pheifer is good in this movie, but even that cant save it. I give it three stars for the music and the incredible shoot out at the end, but other than that it is not something I would call a "classic" however that is an opinion and many others may disagree with me. If you want a good gangster flick with Pacino, check out Carlito's way which was also directed by Brian De palma that is a movie where you can actually notice character build up and you sympathize with what is going on.