The recent, unironic adoption of Brian De Palma’s furious, ludicrous crime epic by gangstas, playas and hippety-hoppety bling merchants of all stripes is perhaps testament to the film’s outrageous cojones, rather than any piercing insight into the criminal psyche.
But there’s no denying that ‘Scarface’ is also a lot of fun, tracking homicidal Cuban homunculus Tony Montana (Al Pacino) from his first footsteps on US soil to his operatic demise in a cloud of AK-47 bullets and coke. In fact, cocaine-fuelled excess seems to power the whole movie, from Oliver Stone’s overloaded, trashily self-aware script to Al Pacino’s wildly unpredictable consonant-mangling mumble (‘Manolo, choot dis piece a chit’), from De Palma’s magnificently indulgent Wellesian long shots to the retina-scorching, high-kitsch set and costume design.
What’s most impressive is Stone and De Palma’s unwillingness to cloak Tony’s grotesque, voracious machine-gun capitalism with any sort of ‘Godfather’-style guff about honour and family: ‘Scarface’ is an unashamed study of selfish, sadistic criminality, and all the better for it.
Cast and crew
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
F Murray Abraham