Scarface | Chicago Reader


Rated R 170 minutes 1983

Brian De Palma dedicates this 1983 feature to Howard Hawks and Ben Hecht, authors of the 1932 original, though I doubt they would find much honor in his gory inflation of their crisp, 90-minute comic nightmare into a lumbering, self-important, arrhythmic downer of nearly three hours. It was De Palma's first attempt at a "serious" film, and he steeled himself for the task by reading up on the literature—great undigested hunks of Robert Warshow's "The Gangster as Tragic Hero" are planted in the chaotic action like looming signposts of significance. But there's no attempt to reimagine the material beyond the change of venue from Italian Chicago to Cuban Miami; De Palma merely attempts what Hawks and Hecht might have, given a big budget and relative freedom from censorship. It's an immature idea, film-schoolish and ultimately self-defeating, because De Palma has nothing of Hawks in him. One hysterically overplayed sequence follows another, as a cartoonish Al Pacino transforms himself in record time from edgy punk to whimpering wormboy. With Michelle Pfeiffer.

Film Credits

Director: Brian De Palma

Producer: Louis A. Stroller, Martin Bregman and Peter Saphier

Cast: Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Bauer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia, Miriam Colon, F. Abraham, Paul Shenar, Harris Yulin, Ángel Salazar, Arnaldo Santana, Pepe Serna, Michael P. Moran, Al Israel, Dennis Holahan, Mark Margolis, Michael Alldredge, Ted Beniades and Richard Belzer

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