The rise and fall of the American dream with a mesmerizing performance by Al Pacino...
Interestingly enough, Scarface is not primarily a crime story. It's primarily an American Dream story where the means to achieve that dream just happen to lie in the criminal underworld. Another way to put it is this. If you're looking to watch Scarface for violent action, you'll only get so much. There are really just four scenes where guns are being fired, including the one in the climactic finale. Otherwise, take my word for it. Scarface is a drama about the rise to success and the fall from grace.
The main reason this movie works is Al Pacino's performance as Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant who, like other Cuban immigrants, arrives in Miami, Florida, once Cuba's Mariel Harbor opens in May 1980. From the very first line of dialogue, Pacino is clearly immersed in the role, speaking in a convincing Cuban accent. In the scene where he is being interrogated by U.S. immigration officers, Montana appears to be a likable, and even funny, regular guy. We then see him get a green card and work as a restaurant dishwasher, embarking on the path to the American Dream.
However, Montana is not satisfied with this at all. Immediately, he discovers that one can get rich quick in the drug trade. And that's what happens next. Montana works his way up from a low-ranking dealer to a drug lord with greater respect. This ultimately leads to the highest position of all where Montana is the head of his own drug empire. Keep in mind that this movie is almost three hours long, so this is really an epic journey I'm talking about here.
It's also worth mentioning the supporting characters of Scarface. Montana has a friend and partner in crime named Manny Ribera (Steven Bauer) and meets various characters of the drug trade, including Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia), Frank's girlfriend Elvira Hancock (Michelle Pfeiffer), Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar), and Omar Suarez (F. Murray Abraham). Montana also has a younger sister named Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) and his mother (Miriam Colon). This is a good time to mention how the first on-screen appearance of Tony's sister and mother is an interesting scene, because even as Montana is deep in his criminal life, he seems to have some heart left. At least, for the time being.
You see, what ultimately happens over the course of the movie is that Montana goes through a gradual character transformation. In the beginning, he seems like an innocent immigrant from Cuba. As he enters the drug business, he's still likable to some degree, because it looks like he's have a good time. You would think that Montana would stay this way until the end. But he doesn't, because the American Dream doesn't just capture him. It possesses him. All this time, he has followed one simple yet all too powerful motto: "The World Is Yours." Once Montana becomes the ultimate drug kingpin, he becomes a nasty, greedy scoundrel who starts to lose everything, both material and personal. This part of the movie is worth the wait.
Bottom line: Scarface is an engrossing character drama and, to a certain extent, a thrilling crime story. Again, the main reason to see Scarface is Al Pacino, because his performance here is certainly one of his most notable. You'll likely find yourself quoting Tony Montana after the movie is over, especially the line "Say hello to my little friend" when he is brandishing a machine gun. Of course, everyone else deserves credit, too, including Oliver Stone for the screenplay and Brian De Palma as the director. So if you've never watched a gangster movie and would like to try one out, Scarface, in my opinion, is a pretty good place to start.
For more information about Scarface, visit the Internet Movie Database.