"A Classic is something that everybody wants to have read but nobody wants to read. A classic is also something that everyone praises but no one has read." -Mark Twain
'Classic' seems to be the word used to describe "Scarface", Brian DePalma's 1983 film about opulence, self surrender, greed, and danger among Florida's drug ring. People and critics (and rappers for that matter) deem this film 'an epic gangster classic' or 'eptiome of gangster films.' When it is anything but. It is praised for all the wrong reasons. Scarface is a terrific film that deserves praise from all over, but not all the praise it gets from audiences today, and therefor the fine points it so poignantly makes are missed by the general public.
First off, the film is about a Cuban refugee, with a past of wanting to escape communism grasp and find happiness. Simple? Yes. But the layers of De Palma's directing genius, and the great story written by Oliver Stone (yes I know, he actually wrote a real good one here) play into all of it. The characters are all looking for an escape, as escape is a natural element dealt with in the film by all. Each character has something to offer, that makes them likable by everyone who could appreciate this film. They are entwined in a world of mystique and money, but all that has a price, as they all learn. Each character thinks they are getting better chances in life, when in true dramatic irony, they are actually getting worse. 'Tragedy' would be a better word to describe this movie. All those who praise the film for it's drug usage, it's violence, it's dialog, totally missed the point. There is nothing really positive about the film besides the characters positive expectations of themselves. And that is why the film works so well. The devastation through out the film serves to deliver the message of the film, not to look cool or attract viewers. Brian De Palma doesn't make movies for cult gangsters, or brainless action fans.
Next on, the film is an adult drama. It is not a 'gangster film'. It has it's share of action, but the action is plotted very carefully, so it has a point. It's not like "Aliens"- an example of a big dumb action film, and most audiences perceive this film as a big dumb action gangster film about doing drugs and shooting people. Ridiculous. Hogwash. If this film is about that, then it is about how bad it is. Not a promotion of it.
This being said, the film is indeed a great film. It has great cinematography that pulls you into the story. It has a very dramatic score (in true Giorgio Moroder style), which simply could give you chills, or bring you to tears. The film is rather lengthy, but it is a story, and each moment counts. The acting is terrific. Al Pacino - enough said. He can do any role that he puts his mind to, and this was no exception. Pretty boy Steven Bauer, as Manny. I didn't think much of him in other films he did, but he actually makes you like him when he goes under maestro De Palma's direction. Michelle Pfeiffer is a true gem as Elvira. Popping' fresh off the heels of a sort of embarrassment in "Grease 2" she got her ticket to ride performing a no holds barred performance of a beauty that is more than meets the eye. But the three true diamonds in this rough are Mary Elizabeth Mastrontonio as Tony's sister Gina, who when she smiles, or cries, we see her soul and her fresh way of living, and watch it deteriorate; Paul Shenar as Alejandro Sosa, a drug lord, who runs deeper than a river, and Shenar portrays him as so; and Miriam Colom as Tony and Gina's torn mother. These three dig the film as deep as it can go.
This reviewer learned one main thing when watching "Scarface" for the first time. Always go into a film unsuspecting. All the hype and talk of this film cannot possibly prepare you for what you really see. Only knowing De Palma (like I do) can give you even a glimpse of what this film holds. So ignore the rap crap, ignore the mindless violence supporters, and fix yourself a glass of Bailey's on the rocks, and indulge yourself in an emotional viewing of a great film, the real "Scarface."