Scarface- A flamboyant tragedy!
A year after ‘Blow Out’, Brian De Palma loosely remakes the 1932 film of the same name and this time his script is penned by Oliver Stone. Al Pacino and Steven Bauer play the leads of this passionate but powerful movie. With a historical background, the life of Tony Montana, a ruthless Cuban refugee is narrated to us. The main plot of the movie appears to be modelled on a Greek tragedy, where fate ultimately wins. But if we apply A.C.Bradley’s idea of ‘character is destiny’ the movie seems to be a Shakespearean tragedy. Similar to the life of Tony Montana, the film begins passively, rises steadily, reaches the crisis narrowly and falls into the end mercilessly. But what makes this movie different from other gangster movies is that here we see the values and passions behind the blood stained faces of darklings and drug lords. Graphic sexual language and bloody violence have forced the MPAA to give an ‘R’ for this movie. The Director and Writer can pride their finished product, which has come out like a red pearl from a red sea.
The movie jumps out of the hat with a few archive videos regarding Fidel Castro’s Mariel Boatlift and the migration of Cubans to Florida USA. We are being indoctrinated that 25% of those migrants have criminal records. Tony Montana (Al Pacino) and his close friend Manny Ribera (Steve Bauer) enter the scene when they are enquired by the officials in Florida because of their criminal records. Soon they are thrown into Freedomtown where Cuban refugees without green card live. Very soon Manny pulls Tony into the assassination of Cuban communist Emilio Rebenga, which gets them green cards and opens their gates to America. Tony and Manny start working in a fast food shop, but Tony is seen disgusted about it. Once again Omar Suarez (F. Murray Abraham) who gave them the ‘kill Rebenga’ project, meets the duo for another drug deal as per which they have to collect cocaine from a Colombian dealer named “Hector the Toad”. In their very first meeting itself, Tony and Omar rub shoulders with each other but Manny puts them off and convinces Tony to take up the task. With a small team Tony and Manny visit Hector, but a few things go bloody wrong. Consequently one of Tony’s friends gets killed but Tony and Manny manage to collect the cocaine after finishing everybody in Hector’s house and take it to Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia), the Big boss of Omar. Frank is impressed by Tony’s frankness and forthright attitude and appoints him and Manny as dealers in his dope business. On the other hand Tony is impressed by Elvira Hancock (Michelle Pfeiffer), Frank’s girlfriend. Also Tony’s sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) and mother (Miriam Colon) are introduced to us when Tony pays a visit to them. Everything in Tony’s life changes when he takes off to Bolivia to meet Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar) a drug Lord as a representative of Frank, along with Omar. Very soon Alex kills Omar for his betraying past but he has something really nice in store for Tony. To know what happened after this, you must take a walk down the lane of Tony Montana.
Tip-top characterisation and performances as sound as a bell make this movie a real classic. Al Pacino has acted as though he has lived next door to the fictional Tony Montana at least for a 100 years in the world of Scarface. His looks, strange body language, Cuban tongue and sniffing style has put him in the forest of undeletable fame. If Al Pacino leaves the screen for a while or if he is mute for a few minutes, we realise how charming and vicious Steve Bauer is. Steve Bauer, right from his first scene amuses us, playing a friend, a womanizer, a felon and a husband. If Al Pacino scores in a single ball like a football player, Steve Bauer amuses us with a number of balls like a juggler. The plot is efficiently modeled on a Greek tragedy except for the fact that a Greek tragic hero comes from a noble family. The Director’s efforts to put even the minuscule elements in style has given him fruits of success. The portrayal of Tony’s other side adds strength to his character and makes it complete unlike a few other stories where the two sides of a man are depicted in an imbalanced manner, dragooning it to be technically incorrect. The tragic flaw of Tony Montana and the fashion in which it causes his downfall are flawless. Tony faces and dissipates the outside conflicts with ease but when a conflict is ignited inside him he faces the ‘perepetia’, recognises his error in a ‘catharsis’ of pity and fear
and ultimately dies. Commendations to the Scarface crew!
The movie’s screenplay falls into a lethargic abyss now and then leaving the audience in darkness. Except the leads other characters fail to impress, but they manage to travel through the story helped by the leads. Despite the fact that this movie is lengthy the story lumbers in the middle disgusting the viewers. The diction of the movie is down to earth but at times it becomes too crude. The Director’s attempt to be original and fresh protects him against all these flaws.
Technically, John A. Alonzo‘s cinematography work lags behind. Certain frames in the movie are shown without any focus and we are pressurised to find out where the hero of the scene is. Similarly Gerald B. Greenbury and David Ray hold responsibility for the dragging screenplay and scenes of the same kind. Giorgio Moroder‘s music adds a mild harmonic flavor to this film. The sound effects of this movie, especially during the gunshots raise it to the level of a Hitchcock movie. On the whole Scarface tells us ” Decisions, deeds or death, they’re all yours!”