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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Scarface (1983)



Reviews and Comments

This extravagant remake of the 1932 version of the gangster classic is a real trip. Nearly doubling the running time of the original, the film achieves a kind of epic status; though the expansion does not necessarily make for a better film, it makes it different enough that the remake can stand on its own terms. Instead of Tony Camonte from Italy, the main character is Tony Montana, from Cuba, deported by Castro.

It contains an outstanding performance by Al Pacino and another by F. Murray Abraham in a small supporting role. Most scenes are electric: whether you like where the movie is going or not, whether you like the characters or not (it's a bit of a roller coaster ride that way), it's hard to stop watching it. The icy character of Elvira Hancock, despite a fine performance by Michelle Pfeiffer, is one of the film's weak points; the screenplay requires her to have one too many changes of heart off-screen.

Though there are visual touches that bear the signature of director Brian De Palma, it arguably owes more to the writer Oliver Stone, unusual for a remake. It's a good film but not a pleasant one. It is outrageously violent, and it notoriously set records for profanity that held for years. This harshness is not a virtue, but it's hard to argue it's not inherent in the territory covered by the film.

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