Brian de Palma was born 72 years ago, yesterday. He’s the man behind Mission: Impossible, Carlito’s Way, Dressed to Kill, Carrie, The Untouchables and, next on the List of Shame project, Scarface. Fidel Castro opened Cuba’s borders for massive emigration of dissidents, taking the opportunity to get rid of a bunch of criminals. Amongst those cuban thugs were Tony Montana (Al Pacino) and Manny Ribera (Steven Bauer), who successfully sneak into the United States with one goal: get rich. And the easiest, fastest way to do it in 1980’s Miami was to get in the drug business.
The film received mixed reviews upon its release for various reasons, but I think it all comes down to what you like to watch and how you look at Scarface: where some see ridiculous characters, lines and utter excess, others see a fitting reaction to a crazy scenario and a good sense of humour. I’m in the second category.
Granted, Scarface is bloody ridiculous: Al Pacino is completely over the top, a borderline parody; Michelle Pfeiffer may be a tad bit more constrict but still plays the white, bitchy, doped up, confused gal as loudly. The whole thing is unbelievably insane. But this is a film that mocks his own protagonists and invites us to laugh at them too, a kind of hyperbolic satire of a powerful man’s grandiose downward spiral for succumbing to greed. Sure, some have searched and found political statements in it, but more that anything Scarface (and particularly Pacino’s work as Tony) is iconic, unforgettable, and freaking hilarious. And why shouldn’t that deserve our praise.