For Reel

Scarface (1983)
April 3, 2011, 3:23 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Brian De Palma

Despite its shortcomings, one must admit that Scarface is one of the rare conceptually successful remakes. Updating the Depression-era Chicago setting to 1980s Miami in the aftermath of the Mariel Harbor boat lift, Brian De Palma and screenwriter Oliver Stone successfully give the movie new relevance while retaining the original’s anxieties regarding immigration. What they fail to do, however, is provide much of a counterpoint for this anxiety. While title cards enforce the fact that most of these Cuban immigrants were not criminals, the only Cubans we see in the film are despicable. Nonetheless, as a satire of capitalism run amuck, Scarface has its pleasures. When Tony complains about his increasing taxation whilst lounging in his mansion, one can only think of Stone’s later presentation of Wall Street criminals. The reason that Camonte appeals to me so much more than Montana, however, is the lack of narrative interest given to Pacino’s co-stars. So little is seen of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio that her final actions seem implausible (despite it being one of the more fascinating elements of Hawks’ 1932 vision), and as Montana’s trophy wife, Michelle Pfeiffer doesn’t have a lot to do besides cocaine. Additionally, as intelligent a director as De Palma is, he doesn’t appear to think much of his audiences given his exaggerated punctuation of every plot development through camera zooms and music cues. While a moderately entertaining gangster saga, Scarface is unworthy of its reputation.