Scarface is a remake of the (1932) gangster classic of the same name only this time; director Brian De Palma set the film to the backdrop of 1980s Miami. The story follows Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee who upon his arrival in America sets about working his way to the top of Miami’s thriving cocaine empire. Scarface is in parts extremely violent but unlike so many films of the same genre the movie is also very engaging because we see the central character brought to life by Al Pacino. His portrayal of Tony Montana is very real, and you could easily believe Pacino was actually Cuban. I think the way De Palma made Tony come from Cuba, deported by Castro rather than from Italy as was Tony Camonte in the 1932 version, make the film set itself apart from the original as its own movie.
Supporting Al Pacino was Michelle Pfeiffer, playing the icy role of Elvira Hancock. I thought she looked amazing and gave a fine performance but did not find her character anywhere near as believable, the transition from Boss’s lady and completely out of Montana’s league to his wife and ultimately his property, just didn’t convince me.
The films plot is told by putting the audience in a second persons perspective. The story is character driven, focussing mainly on the lead role – Tony and his fast and brutal rise and climatic fall in the Miami drugs underworld. The cinematography is excellent, the use of lighting and bright colours gives the feel of 80s Miami to a tee – the way some of the shots were filmed make the audience feel as though they are in the same room, for example, at the start of the film in the motel room, I almost felt the closeness of the chainsaw being wielded by the Columbian drug dealer.
The stereotyping of the young Cuban refugees as being un-educated, criminal outcasts from their own country served to reinforce America’s distrust of Cuba at that time. And although the majority were probably good honest people trying to build a better life for themselves, images like these tend to stay with most of the audience I would imagine.
The film is set in Miami and a lot of the camera techniques that are used throughout the film have become standard for films of this genre. The high angled shot of the palm trees that line Miami strip for example has been used time and time again to give that immediate image of the good-life, the weather, the atmosphere, fast paced yet laid back – it just looks amazing. Also the hotels that line Miami beach with the neon lights and fast sports cars driving by to me, typifies the glamour of 80s America and it is the type of visual image that stays with you.
Overall in my opinion Scarface is one of the greatest films I Have seen. The fact that visual clues from this movie can still be seen in films today just goes to show the impact it had on the genre. Scarface has been quoted as a Gangster Epic and Al Pacino is said to have called it his best work. Scarface has all the ingredients of a great film and appeals to all the senses, making this classic piece of Gangster history a roller – coaster of a ride to watch and a thoroughly enjoyable experience all round.