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George At 

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Featured Movie Reviews

Scarface


No one does cinematic excess quite like Brian De Palma. Throw in one of Al Pacino's most over the top performances and you have the garish, violent early 80's genre classic SCARFACE.

Pacino is all attitude & menace as Tony Montana, one of thousands of Cuban refugees that descend upon Miami as the film opens. Laying low with big aspirations just beneath the surface, Tony and his right hand man Manny (Stephen Bauer) run small hustles, then murder their way up the ladder.

When Tony meets Miami drug kingpin Frank Lopez, his journey upward (?) accelerates. Lopez, well played by Robert Loggia (Big, The Sopranos, SOB) sees something in Tony, but Tony only has eyes for Frank's angry young bride Elvira, played by a very young Michele Pfeiffer in her first big screen role (after the disastrous "Grease 2").

De Palma crafts a nearly 3 hour crime drama, detailing Tony's unquenchable drive for power and loyalty. Along the way, he fills the screen with graphic bursts of violence and some memorable characters.

F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus) is Lopez's right hand man, Omar Suarez, who can't keep Tony's ambition at bay.

Paul Shenar (Orson Welles in TV's huge hit "The Night That Panicked America") plays Sosa, the incredibly wealthy Colombian drug lord that Tony aspires to be.

Harris Yulin (Clear and Present Danger, Training Day) is a Miami detective playing both sides of the law and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (The Abyss, The Perfect Storm) had her first starring role as Gina, Tony's younger sister that he overprotects with a fierce intensity.

Everything revolves around Pacino as Montana. We could argue all day about his performance and I can see both sides of the debate. Pacino is not subtle, the accent borders on Ricky Ricardo parody, but you can't take away from the tangible sense of his quest for power and descent into drug fueled anger that ultimately takes down Tony. Pacino is a screaming, profane gangster that can't escape his depravity, now matter how much glitz and gaudy decor he surrounds himself with at every turn.

Oliver Stone's screenplay sets a record for f-bombs and dead bodies that hopefully will never be broken. Stone's definitely playing to the masses, but creates a dark antihero that maybe only could have existed in the 80's.

De Palma brings his unique style to the film and like his camera, the film never stops moving, never lagging at 170 minutes long.

The drug pick up in the seedy motel while Manny waits in the convertible, the machine gun assault at the nightclub and Tony's retaliation and the attack on Montana's compound are De Palma classics.

At the point Pacino is blasting through his office door with a quasi-rocket launcher and shouting "Say hello to my little friend!" through the blood and smoke, he and De Palma are holding nothing back. The wide eyes of his bodyguard when he sees the huge mountain of cocaine on Tony's desk could have been my expression anytime during the off-the-rails final 45 minutes.

If your tastes are close to Tony's when it comes to garish excess, it's gangster movie nirvana.

Even when De Palma's over-the-top, he's an interesting filmmaker and this is one of his biggest, boldest grabs for the top.

Scarface gets a blood-drenched, four-letter splattered and coke covered B.

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