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A gangster movie starring Al Pacino directed by Brian De Palma

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Anatomy of an American Nightmare

  • Sep 11, 2003
Having seen the previous Scarface (starring Paul Muni) many years ago, I was curious to see what director Brian De Palma would do with what I incorrectly assumed to be essentially similar material. In fact, De Palma co-authored a script (with Oliver Stone) and created a film which shares almost nothing in common with its predecessor. Al Pacino is brilliant as Tony Montana, a vicious and impoverished Cuban immigrant who eventually becomes a wealthy drug lord in Miami. Along the way, he eliminates or alienates family members and friends as well as his underworld enemies. Montana's destiny is perhaps summarized by the ancient aphorism "live by the sword....die by the sword." For me, the most memorable scene involves a power saw in the bathroom of an apartment in which a drug deal fails. Others include Tony's sudden acts of violence in response to real or imagined threats to his supremacy ("manhood") and the final sequence when his heavily-guarded mansion is invaded by assassins as he snorts his way through a mound of cocaine on his desk. Steven Bauer is especially effective as Montana's best friend Manny. Other strong performances are provided by Michelle Pfeiffer (Elvira), Robert Loggia (Frank Lopez), and F. Murray Abraham (Omar). This is among the nastiest and bloodiest of gangster films. There is a rationale for most of the violence in the Godfather films whereas in this Scarface, Montana's behavior seems instinctive and is therefore more upsetting. (The same is true of the characters played by Joe Pesci in Goodfellas and Casino.) In 1932, director Howard Hawks wanted to portray a fictional character (Tony Clamonte) based on Al Capone without in any sense romanticizing the criminality which the real "Scarface" personified. Decades later, De Palma examines with surgical skill how the American Dream for so many immigrants becomes an American Nightmare for Montana and for almost everyone with whom he is associated.

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More Scarface (1983 movie) reviews
review by . August 19, 2009
Scarface as everyone already knows is a part of American pop culture. This remake of the gangster picture has "modernized" the original plot and pumped up the violence and at the time set the record for obscenity in a major Hollywood production. Instead of being an Italian immigrant, this time Tony his a refugee from Cuba, instead of Beer it's Cocaine (during this time period American was in the midst of a major cocaine hangover that spread from the late 70's and into the 80's). The film …
review by . March 05, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Pacino, Bauer, and a hot Pfeiffer     Cons: none for me     The Bottom Line:   “A devil in the flesh a rebel at its best  No complaining we live in hell and I'm blessed, Scarface”  ~Lil Wayne     Scarface tells the story of small time hood, Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant that arrived in Miami during the big humanity transfer that Castro initiated. Using the guise of joining families that …
review by . January 02, 2004
The 20th Anniversary release of SCARFACE reminds us that our movies of today that deal with violence have not grown more intense than the older films like THE GODFATHER for Italian organized crime and SCARFACE for Cuban/Colombian organized crime. It is difficult to watch this well made movie because of its ultravivid bloodshed, but once past this obstacle there are reasons to revisit Brian DePalma's interpretation of Oliver Stone's screenplay. Al Pacino gives a mighty performance as the title character, …
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Robert Morris ()
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Professionally, I am an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and breakthrough high-impact organizational performance. I also review mostly business books … more
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About this movie


Brian De Palma's blood-and-sun-drenched saga of a Cuban deportee's rise to the top of Miami's cocaine business has become something of a popular classic since its release; it's been referenced in rap songs and subsequent gangster movies and quoted the world over. Despite this lovefest with the dialogue, the film's brutal violence and lack of positive characters still make it controversial and disliked by certain critics. Al Pacino stars as Tony Montana, whose intelligence, guts, and ambition help him skyrocket from dishwasher to the top of a criminal empire but whose eventual paranoia and incestuous desire for his kid sister (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) prove his undoing. Michelle Pfeiffer plays Tony's neglected coke-addicted trophy wife, and Steven Bauer is his concerned friend. F. Murray Abraham, Robert Loggia, and Paul Shenar are some of Tony's sleazy business partners and potential killers. Oliver Stone wrote the expletive-packed screenplay, based on Howard Hawks's 1932 version--which was ostensibly...

Remake of the Howard Hawks film .

The film had to be submitted several times to the MPAA to obtain an R rating.

Budget was over $25 million dollars.

Two video gamea based upon the movie was made, Scarface" The World is Yours and Scarface: Money, Power and Respect.

The script was written by Oliver Stone when he was in rehab for cocaine use.
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