In the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, gangster movies were back on our cinema screens in a big way thanks to the likes of The Godfather Parts 1 and 2, as well as Mean Streets, Goodfellas and Casino. Plenty of those films made a huge, influential impact on the crime genre in general, and Scarface was one of those films. Released in 1983, Scarface was highly controversial at the time, yet over the coming years since, it has achieved a massive cult following, and it isn’t hard to see why.
Director Brian de Palma and writer Oliver Stone crafted a stylish yet tough crime flick that centres on Al Pacino’s ambitious but dangerous gangster, displaying his rise to power and then his fall. At the beginning of the film, Pacino’s character starts out as a man who wants more out of life; he’s living in horrid conditions and is eager to escape by any means necessary, even if that means committing horrible deeds himself. He is a severe person but he’s been placed in an extreme situation to start out with, so you completely understand where he’s coming from and why he’s willing to do what he does. This is a man who has nothing to lose yet so much to gain out of life. He wants power, and when does rise to it he still feels as though it’s not enough and this is what leads him to his downfall. He becomes more monstrous as the film progresses, shown through his complicated relationship with his sister, starting out positive but becoming negative by the end.
It’s a fascinating arc throughout, making you sort of sympathise with him to begin with, despite acts of violence that he commits. You almost do want to see him succeed, to outsmart everyone and find his way out of sticky situations. Yet, it’s when his life slowly spirals out of control later on that any ounce of sympathy you may have for him is gone. The filmmakers provide a perfect insight into this gangster’s increasingly-paranoid psychology, exploring his needs, as well as weaknesses, and it goes without saying that Al Pacino completely sells his role throughout. You totally get who he is and what he’s capable of from the first minute he’s on-screen, and it’s no surprise that this helped make him the cinema legend that he is. Giorgio Moroder’s suspenseful score creeps up on you in the best way possible, heightening the tension when it matters, which goes beautifully in hand with John A. Alonzo’s gorgeously-shot cinematography.
Scarface is an iconic gangster flick that is armed with terrific performances and an incredible visual style that makes it arresting to view and watch. Yet, deep at the heart of it, is compelling character arc about the rise and fall of man who wants power, but, at the end of the day, still believes that enough is never enough. This is a film that has made an impact for a very good reason, and with the re-release on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-Ray, now is the perfect time to check it out.
Dir: Brian de Palma
Scr: Oliver Stone
Cast: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, F. Murray Abraham
Prd: Martin Bregman
DOP: John A. Alonzo
Music: Giorgio Moroder
Run time: 170 mins
Scarface: Gold Edition is out now on 4K Ultra-HD Blu-Ray.