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Scarface (1983)

Scarface - Special Edition DVD

He loved the American Dream. With a Vengeance.

Directed by:

Brian De Palma

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 170 minutes

US Certificate: R UK Certificate: 18

On DVD

Country: United States

‘Scarface’ might have characters with cuddly little names like “Hector the Toad” and “Nick the Pig”, but ‘The Animals of Farthing Wood’ it ain’t. More than 20 years on from its original release, it’s still one of the most gruesomely violent flicks around (sure, the likes of Sin City and the Kill Bills definitely outdo it in the blood-and-snotters stakes, but let’s face it – they’re comic book tales taking place in a comic book world). At the time, this one also held the record for the number of swearies used in a movie, treating us to “the F word” an incredible 182 times. That’s almost as many as you’ll hear at a Bernard Manning gig.

Central character Tony Montana (Al Pacino) might not be quite as dislikeable as Mr Manning, but he certainly is a nasty piece of work. After arriving in Miami along with the reams of other unwanted Cuban crims dispatched to America by Fidel Castro, he sets about climbing the local underworld ladder. Before long, he’s the biggest cocaine-dealer on the block, he’s started dressing all ‘Saturday Night Fever’, and he’s ruling his empire from a ridiculous leather throne embossed with his own initials. It’s a wonder the drug-dealing industry doesn’t use his example more heavily in their recruitment drives, now that I come to think about it.

Written by a then coked-up Oliver Stone and directed by Brian De Palma, this is one of the stand-out films of the 80s. That’s not to say it’s perfect: some of the supporting performances are less than great (Michelle Pfeiffer delivers one of her weaker displays as Tony’s love interest Elvira, and just check out that bizarre dancing she produces in one of the nightclub scenes!), and Giorgio “Electric Dreams” Moroder’s synth-laced soundtrack is at-times absolutely appalling (the music that plays when Tony claps eyes on Elvira for the first time is so thick with cheese that it becomes off-putting and laughable).

But, aside from that, there’s much to admire here. Pacino’s performance is every bit as outstanding as you would expect, turning his character into the filmic equivalent of a book that’s impossible to put down. De Palma, meanwhile, may well be one of the most over-rated helmsmen operating in Hollywood today, but here he gets it spot on. The pace and style of his direction is almost as aggressive as Montana himself, and that’s a shrewd move given the length of the film (it comes in at over two-and-ahalf hours). It never gets boring, and – no matter how grisly the violence gets – you can never look away.

It's Got: Yeyo. It doesn’t even mean anything!

It Needs: Pfeiffer to explain what that dancing is all about.

DVD Extras Unlike many so-called “Special” Editions, this one is actually quite special. On the two discs enclosed you get a host of interesting featurettes including ‘The Rebirth of Scarface’, ‘Acting Scarface’, ‘Creating Scarface’. ‘Scarface: The TV Version’, ‘Origins of a Hop Hop Classic’ and the usual array of deleted scenes and trailers. Version reviewed: Scarface (Special Edition) also available from Amazon.com Scarface (Widescreen Anniversary Edition) DVD Extras Rating: 8/10

Alternatives:

Scarface (1932 film which this one was originally intended to be a remake of - but turned out not to be).

Summary

If you only watch one film from the 80s… well, actually, you should probably make it ‘Ghostbusters’. But, if you watch a few of them, make sure ‘Scarface’ is one of them!

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