"I always tell the truth. Even when I lie."
Brian DePalma's Scarface has become such a classic film over time and its main character (Al Pacino as Scarface) is such an iconic pop cultural figure that few people would believe that he was actually nominated for a Razzie for Worst Director in 1984. Scarface is yet another film that was perhaps misunderstood when it came out, but has built a solid cult following over time (it influenced a lot of rappers and hip hop artists during the 90's) and is recognized by the IMDB as one of the top 250 films. When it comes to gangster films this might not be as perfect as The Godfather I, II, or Goodfellas but it still ranks among the top 10 in the genre and it has become more popular over time. Despite having never seen the film in its entirety before, I was familiar with the ending. Everyone knows where the phrase "Say hello to my little friend" comes from despite never have seeing this film because the ending of Scarface is perhaps one of the best known scenes in cinema history. Scarface has so many memorable quotes that it's hard to choose one, and that is thanks to the great script written by Oliver Stone who loosely adapted it from a prior film. It is also such a memorable film thanks in most part to Al Pacino's masterful performance as Tony Montana. He has made so many great films in his career, but I think this character will always stand out a bit above the rest. For some critics his performance may be over the top, but I think he nailed it and that is why Montana has become such an iconic figure over time. There is something about him that has transcended time and cultures. It is an epic and ultra violent stylized film and that is why Al Pacino's over the top and loud performance worked so well. Scarface is about 170 minutes long but it never ceases to entertain for a second.
During the Mariel harbor opening in Cuba more than 100,000 Cuban refugees were sent to the United States, one of those refugees happened to be communist hating ex military Tony Montana (Al Pacino). He has big dreams and high ambitions but upon his arrival he has to start off low. He and his friend, Manny (Steven Bauer) begin washing dishes when they are contacted by Omar Suarez (Murray Abraham) to make a business deal with some dangerous Colombians involving some drugs and money. Tony and Manny survive their mission and Omar introduces them to his boss, Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia), a drug kingpin in Miami, who hires their services. Frank has it all: a big mansion, nice cars, and a beautiful wife named Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer); everything that Tony dreams of having in this new country. Tony is convinced that he will not stop until he gets what he wants and in doing so helping his sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) with whom he had been separated during his prison stint in Cuba. The only problem is that he will have to make a lot of enemies on the way to the top.
I really don't know what DePalma's true intentions were for Scarface. I don't believe he was trying to glorify Scarface because he was portrayed in a dark and negative light, but over time he has become sort of a role model for some people. Perhaps Al Pacino's performance was so strong that it made it easy for audience's to relate to this ambitious character. DePalma was able to make the audience care for this unstable and explosive character. On the one hand he refused to kill women and kids, but on the other he was able to kill his best friend without hesitation. Scarface does seem to walk a fine line between glorifying the character and showing how destructive ambition and excesses can be. This bleak mood set in the film can be seen through Pfeiffer's character, someone who has it all but seems completely unhappy with life. Even Tony himself once he achieves his goals seems to lose himself completely by these excesses. He hates seeing his sister with other men involved in the same business because he knows how ugly this life is. That is why I think DePalma was never trying to portray Scarface in a glorifying light, but over time his character has become admired by worldwide audiences. The film has a lot to say about ambition, loyalty, and betrayal, but above all it is a stylized ultra violent film that lacks the technical achievements that The Godfather had. It still remains as one of the great gangster and immigrant films of the 80's.