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Scarface (SE)
DVD disk
10.23.2006 By: Jason Adams
Scarface (SE) order
Brian De Palma

Al Pacino
Steven Bauer
Michelle Pfeiffer


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Brian DePalma’s 1983 film chronicles the rise and fall of Tony Montana, a Cuban immigrant determined to live the American Dream and have it all. (“All” being a young Michelle Pfeiffer and a ginormous mountain of cocaine.)
What can you say about SCARFACE that hasn't already been said? It's a modern classic; an epic story grounded in a gripping, personal morality tale. The performances are all top notch, DePalma’s direction incredibly solid; even Oliver Stone is at his written best. Yes, the film is annoyingly heralded upon by every rapper as the end all be all of cinema, but don’t let that taint your perception—this movie has a lot more to offer than drugs, violence and bling.

Stone’s script is a traditional story of the ill effects of greed and power, but at the same time it also dismantles and scrutinizes what that means for the American Dream in the excess of modern culture. As overzealous and oblivious as he is, Pacino’s Tony Montana embodies the very id of the prototypical “you can be anything” immigrant ideal that the United States came to represent. (“The World Is Yours”…not too subtle.) When the main character chooses a life of corruption instead of washing dishes for minimum wage, it’s the American Dream on crack (literally)—determination can get you an honest day’s pay or a drug empire.

With all this weight on his shoulders, Al Pacino is a force of nature in SCARFACE and completely disappears within Tony Montana (purportedly his favorite role). This is Pacino at the level of DOG DAY AFTERNOON, not so much the “HooAH!” caricature he’s become in recent years. It’s a complete travesty that the man wasn’t even nominated for an Oscar that year. Same goes for Brian De Palma; while not his most visibly stylized film, his direction here is confident but not overdone. There are some great shots (nobody moves a camera like De Palma), but even these don’t draw attention to themselves. Instead, De Palma lets the performances and the perfectly gaudy 80’s atmosphere take control of the film.

It still puzzles me why the rap community latched on to this movie in particular. Sure, Tony Montana goes from having nothing to having everything, and he is an undeniable badass throughout the film, but do they see anything past the man’s crib and his “little friend”? At no point does SCARFACE glorify violence or Montana’s lifestyle. The entire last act is pretty much confirmation of that fact. He does have some moral ground, but the character is still more fascinating to watch then he is likable. Hopefully someday someone will sit Scarface the rapper down and explain to him the irony of adopting the “The World Is Yours” attitude and ignoring everything else SCARFACE has to say.
As an owner of the Anniversary Edition that came out a few years ago, I can tell you exactly what’s different in this new Platinum Edition…not much. The best special features—the deleted scenes and the three mini-documentaries—are just inherited straight from the previous release. The new stuff is pretty forgettable. Why was this even re-released? Beats me. There’s no new milestone or anniversary to commemorate. I have a sneaking suspicion this is just a double dip to push the new SCARFACE video game.

Disc 1:
SCARFACE Scorecard: A little counter lets you monitor the number of times the F-word is used and how many bullets are fired throughout the movie. Not the meatiest of special features, but a fun bonus if this is your 78th time watching the movie.

Disc 2:
Deleted Scenes (22:28): A handful of excised material, including a couple extra scenes from the detention camp at the beginning and a longer take of F. Murray Abraham hanging around. The quality of the footage isn’t the greatest (good luck watching any that take place at night), but you can’t go wrong with more SCARFACE.

The Rebirth (10:09): De Palma, Pacino, Stone and producer Martin Bregman talk about how the remake came about and how they approached updating the story in this time and place. Its cool just to hear how it all came together. (Sidney Lumet was originally set to direct, and Scorcese/DeNiro were even in talks at one point.)

The Acting (15:06): Sure, this featurette may cover the entire cast, but its worth it just to hear how Pacino created the character of Tony Montana and how committed he was to the role. (No surprise there…)

The Creating (29:35): A great discussion with cast and crew covering the production of the film’s major sequences. The final shootout was ridiculous to film. Fans of the movie, and De Palma especially, will enjoy this.

The World of Tony Montana: Experts from law enforcement, drug historians and Maxim Magazine (?!) discuss what makes the movie so awesome and how it holds up to the real life world of drug running. The editing is annoying but it’s a decent chronicle of the cultural phenomenon the movie has become and how it still might not be too far fetched.

Making of SCARFACE: The Video Game (12:05): It’s nice that the game has all- star voice talent, including original cast members like Robert Loggia and Steven Bauer, but the plot is outright retarded. Tony Montana comes back and gets revenge on Sosa? Are you joking?

TV Clips (2:49): A funny comparison of the actual movie compared to the cleaned up TV version. The best change is with one of Montana’s most famous lines, which on TV goes, “This city is like a great big chicken just waiting to get plucked.”

The only other good thing about the Platinum Edition in comparison to the previous version is that they dropped the worthless documentary on how important SCARFACE is to hip-hop. The only time I want to hear rappers talk about how “buttah” a movie is would be the Wu Tang Clan and their infectious love of kung fu movies.
Any fan of crime movies should have SCARFACE in a highly esteemed place in their collection. That’s a given. As for the DVD itself, the Platinum Edition has just about the same special features as the Anniversary Edition, with slightly upgraded picture and sound. If you already have the movie, keep it. If for some reason you don’t own SCARFACE yet, this is the version to buy.

Extra Tidbit: Oliver Stone was actually fighting his own addiction to cocaine while writing the script for SCARFACE. That must’ve made it difficult when writing lines like “Tony Montana sticks his whole face in a huge block of sweet, sweet nose candy…”
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