8 February 2001 | jpy
As good as it gets, a must for any fan of Scarface (1983).
Carlito's Way (1993), is a brilliant cinematic work. Pacino's performance as Carlito Berganzi displays the duplicity and subsequent torment between his reformed spirit, and the endless seduction of the street, embodied more specifically as his reputation,legacy,those who know him, of him, and those whom he allows in his innermost circle. Sean Penn is phenomenal as the lawyer representing Carlito, his metamorphosis into character is testament to his depth of talent. Penelope Ann Miller, as the long-suffering love of Carlito's life is dramatically and visually enchanting. The casting is perfect. The supporting cast superb, perfectly augmenting the film. The script is alive with literary devices, the story line(s), characters, dialogue, themes, sub-texts,etc., make this an almost endlessly watchable film. Of this genre, Its all there, action, suspense, violence, confrontations, chases, prerequisite street and wise guy character profiling with the right dialogue to make it work. Directed, executed and rendered a cinema great. Carlito's Way is atypical of the gangster genre, although it adheres to certain basics. It is also a love story, not boy meets girl, ad nauseum, but real, destined soul mates, wrenched apart and thrown back together five years later by some abberation of fate. As one experiences spiritual,moral disintegration, the other the anti-thesis. Carlito's Way is a mix of genre's veiled with diligent artistic discretion. I even see certain thematic similarities to Casablanca. Watching Carlito's Way I had the feeling that De Palma wanted to resurrect and redeem poor old Tony Montana, Scarface (1983). Perhaps it was self-redemption, or a means to a great film with a second view or maybe the fun of bringing back that great ensemble of talent, based on a similar theme. A sequel of sorts, not to diminish either film in anyway. Released exactly ten years after Scarface, the comparisons are more than obvious. Ten years later, De Palma and Pacino. Oliver Stone missing, but another great script. In Carlito's Way, Pacino again plays a Hispanic drug lord. Now Puerto Rican in New York City, before Cuban in Miami. Now drug lord repentant, whereas in Scarface, drug lord vehemently unrepentant and devoid of remorse, from beginning to surrealistic end. Instead of classic gangster genre prerequisites employed in Scarface, such as, coming from the bottom, rising in status, trust and favour in the eyes of the mob boss, eventually killing him, and gaining his empire his woman(Michelle Pfeiffer). Love? Its not in the equation- Carlito only wants to unite with his TRUE LOVE. To redeem himself in her eyes, after causing her the heartbreak of losing him forever.(Which it would have been, if not for the quirk of intervention by Carlito's coke addicted, sociopathic lawyer). Carlito seeks solely to prove to his love that he is truly changed, honest, sincere, and even has a plan whereupon they can live happily ever after. Carlito and his girl are likeable. Upon viewing this film one is compelled to empathy, wanting them to escape insurmountable odds (the almost onmniprescent serpent-like "street"), finding and deserving of happiness as long as they may live. However, it is though The Angel of Death has been hidden somewhere in every frame of De Palma's film, casting a shadow, waiting patiently to put his hand upon...
Even the ancillary characters from Scarface are brought back in legions for Carlito's Way. Carlito's Way is Scarface with "feelings". Which is another similarity in the two films, "feelings" is the Achille's Heel of both Carlito Berganzi and Tony Montana. I also believe both films were vastly underrated and overlooked by the mainstream media, but upon populist vote, they are both widely esteemed as "classic". I'd give Carlito's Way (1993) nine out of ten. If I saw a ten, it would be a life changing event.