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“Pacino? Who is Al Pacino?”
“The Guy who plays Tony Montana.”
“Oh! Then say Scarface dude!”
The above excerpt from a conversation I recently had with a friend succinctly explains the aura that Scarface has had, both as a cinematic marvel and symbol. Add to the movie its iconic tag-lines—He loved the American Dream. With a Vengeance. and The World Is Yours—and what you get is a movie that would always be remembered for not only Al Pacino’s career defining performance, but also as mob-crime genre text-book!
Ring in brutality at its most vivid with almost nothing to redeem, garnish with blood-splattered violence, sprinkle the scene with hoards of immigrants intent on surviving and how—that is Scarface; Offering bitter aftertaste of a typical American film in the mob-crime genre.
However gory and ethically wrong the story may seem, it depicts a taste of power at its best.
Having departed in the mass exodus from Cuba’s Mariel Harbour, Tony Montana [Al Pacino], comes to the refugee camp of Freedom Town along with chum Manny Ribera [Steven Bauer] and associates Angel [Pepe Serna] and Chi-Chi [Angel Salazar].
Crime beckons. Frank Lopez [Robert loggia], a drug tycoon, influences the group and they hit a Cuban Govt official. The big, awaited reward: green cards. Frank’s henchman Omar Suarez [Murray Abraham] entraps the group in the hot and lucrative cocaine business advising them to buy cocaine from Colombian dealers. The group kills the Colombians and pass the booty on to Frank. At Frank’s place, Tony is hired along with Manny, where Tony for the first time sees Elvira Hancock [Michelle Pfeiffer], Frank’s consort, and is immediately attracted to her.
The story then unfolds with Frank sending them to Bolivia along with Omar. Here they are to meet Cocaine King Alejandro Sosa [Paul Shenar]. Tony, sensing opportunity with Sosa, double-crosses Frank, eliminates Omar and ruptures friendship with Frank.
Soon we have the gruesome murder of Mel Bernstein [Harris Yulin] and Frank. Tony usurps not only Frank’s vast empire but also his woman, Elvira. With Sosa’s supplies, Tony realizes his ambition to grasp it all, becomes owner of a fabulous cocaine business and marries Elvira, though finding her barren, he soon kicks her out.
Wealth accumulates and Tony must launder it, but is caught in the job as also for evading tax.
Help comes in the shape of protection-bait provided he kills the Bolivian journalist who intends to expose Sosa. Tony plants a bomb in the journalist’s car only to abandon the plan seeing him accompanied by family.
On the personal front, Tony’s mother Georgina [Miriam Colon] has already disowned him for having acquired immoral ways, besides Tony’s attempt to protect younger sister Gina [Elizabeth Mastrantonio] go awry. But he continues to protect her and goes to meet her only to kill her lover, Manny, not aware that Gina married him a day previous.
As the movie enters its final stages, he brings Gina to his mansion but luck is running out. Sosa’s men strike, killing not only Gina but the valiant Tony.
Sinister. Dark. Bleak. Epic. That is Scarface. Overtones of shallowness, avarice, and crime overshadow the conclusion, with the message very clear: that nemesis invariably overtakes the wrong doer.
Watch it for Brian De Palma’s grand Direction, and the mind-blowing awesome and riveting performance of Al Pacino. As a bonus, bask in the glory of memorable dialogues like “Say hello to my little friend!“, “I’m Tony Montana! You fu** with me, you fu**in’ with the best!” and “All I have in this world is my b**ls and my word, and I don’t break ‘em for no one.”