Say hello to my…shiny blu-ray disc. Brian De Palma’s Scarface arrives on UK Blu-ray disc but is the film as good as we all remember?
Directed by: Brian De Palma
Written by: Oliver Stone
Starring: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia
Released: 1983 / Genre: Gangster / Country: USA / IMDB
Put producer Martin Bregman, writer Oliver Stone, director Brian de Palma and actor Al Pacino in the same room and what do you get? Scarface is the answer, the enduring gangster classic from the early 80s which has gone on to influence a slew of filmmakers and inspire hundreds of rap songs.
The story of Tony Montana, a Cuban refugee coming to Miami, and his assent to power in the burgeoning cocaine trade, this movie will be familiar to most film fans; and with that kind of talent behind the film’s creation, it’s no surprise to find Scarface is still the tour-de-force it was on release.
Violent, uncompromising, exciting, depressing and even amusing in places, it’ll forever be remembered for Pacino’s portrayal of Cuban gangster Tony Montana, however watching it today on Universal’s new Blu-ray also highlights the brilliance of the supporting cast, in particular Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s Gina Montana, who brings such emotional fire to her role, she’s even more compelling than Pacino when they’re on screen together.
Nearly thirty years after it was made, Scarface still has more power and energy than many modern imitations, but what is surprising is pop culture’s idolization of Pacino’s Tony Montana. Yes, it’s a rags-to-riches story, and at the start Montana is almost a lovable rogue, but as the film hits the halfway point he’s consumed by evil and all his excess, hideous treatment of other people including his wife and best friend and overwhelming greed makes him hugely unlikeable.
Pacino’s schizophrenic switch is echoed in Brian de Palma’s direction, and the film moves quickly from audacious sweeping long shots to tight, tension-filled scenes where the camera seems as frozen with fear as the viewer, then in the next moment it’s back to admiring glitzy clubs or Michelle Pfeiffer’s beauty. Rather than being tiring, it’s as exhilarating as the film itself.
Well, as exhilarating as most of the film anyway, as Scarface’s pacing is actually all over the place and its two and three-quarter hour runtime is much too long. It’s once Tony has risen to power and we’re waiting for his inevitable downfall where things go awry, but thankfully all the infamous set pieces and the engrossing first half make up for it.
Part homage to the 30s original and part scathing attack on capitalist greed and the perversion of the American Dream, Scarface deserves its place alongside gangster classics such as The Godfather and Goodfellas, and certainly contains one of the most iconic Al Pacino performances of all time. The fact that it’s still tough, shocking and ultimately depressing proves that Scarface has lost none of its power and its message still resonates with viewers today.
Even if you know the film off by heart, you’ll still want to own this new edition, and if you haven’t seen it before, well, you’re in for a treat.
The new blu-ray:
Universal’s HD transfer looks great, with incredibly bright exteriors emphasizing the Miami sunshine, but still maintaining a realistic level of grain during the interior scenes so it never feels overly digitised. The audio is a DTS-HD 7.1 mix and the surrounds are primarily employed during the musical scenes (plus when the bullets fly of course), while the dialogue is perfectly channeled through the centre and the front speakers, making Scarface an excellent example of how to mix a slightly older film properly.
Most of the extra features have been gathered from previous DVD editions of the film, and while the deleted scenes and video game making-of featurette will be passed over by casual fans, there is some good stuff to be found. For example, there are four featurettes adding up to around an hour’s viewing which take you though the film’s creation, including some great comments from Oliver Stone, casting stories and a look at the locations used.
The HD documentary entitled The Scarface Phenomenon talks to various directors, writers and other artists inspired by the film, and is essentially a love-in for Scarface fans. It won’t appeal to everyone, but it’s worth a watch if you’re as much of a fan of the film as those featured.
This limited edition blu-ray triple play steel book was released September 5th 2011.