TTYA – Scarface (1983)

Spend three racks on a new chain. My little friend love doin’ cocaine. ‘Cino gang, ‘Cino gang, ‘Cino gang, ‘Cino gang, ‘Cino gang…

How does it feel to be in the presence of a genius, everyone?


One director which cinephiles seem to have mixed feelings about, myself included, is Mr. Brian De Palma. Throughout the 70’s, and in the early 80’s, De Palma made some very unique, creative, and overall well written and directed films, including Carrie, Sisters, Dressed to Kill, and Blow Out. However, after he made Blow Out, which is probably the film that cemented him as one of the great action-directors of that time, De Palma went all out, and teamed with writer Oliver Stone to remake the Pre-Code Howard Hawks film Scarface. And from then on, he never quite achieved the greatness of his earlier works, going on to direct admittedly well made, though rather superfluous films such as The Untouchables and the first Mission: Impossible film. And it’s all because of Scarface, my least favorite film of his.

Probably the biggest problem with Scarface is that the music is God Awful. It is some of the worst 80’s synth pop I have ever heard in my fucking life, and it does not fit the tone of the film at all. It’s like they watched Blade Runner, and said “Hey, that was really good, and fit the futuristic setting of the film very well. Let’s do the same style of music, but in present day, and sans any creative aspects.” I absolutely hate it, I would rather watch this movie on mute with subtitles on than listen to its fucking music again.

One of my favorite actors of all time is Al Pacino, I think he is objectively a phenomenal performer. The early to mid 70s were obviously the best years for him, but he has good work after that as well. Here, though, he is not doing anything great. This is the movie that I think really created the image of Pacino being the crazy guy that always freaks out in movies. I think Pacino was kind of miscast here. I don’t know Pacino’s official heritage, but based on his last name, and practically all of his characters prior to this, he’s mostly Italian. I don’t know if he has Cuban ancestors, but even if he does, it looks like they spray-tanned the shit out of the guy to make him look more Hispanic. There are definitely worse and more insensitive cases of racial miscasting, but would it have really been so hard to find a hispanic actor to play this part?

Even though I don’t particularly like the film, I will acknowledge that it is about as well made as most of De Palma’s other projects. For one thing, it manages to remain entertaining and mostly not boring the whole way through, despite a 170 minute runtime. And when you compare it to the last three-hour movie I talked about, that’s a definite plus.

Another thing about De Palma is that he always has great ways of crafting a shot. And while this doesn’t have anything as impressive as something from, say, Blow Out, it is still very well realized.

I understand why people like Scarface. If I’m being honest, I’d rather people watch a dumb fun movie like this rather than some other shit that is less well made. But, when I compare it to De Palma’s work immediately before this, I can’t help but feel disappointed with what this movie signaled for the rest of his career.


Thank you, and remember kids, we all dream of being a child again, even the worst of us. Perhaps the worst most of all.


Also, check out the latest episode of my podcast.


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