review for Carlito's Way on AllMovie

Carlito's Way (1993)
by Keith Phipps review

By the early '90s, the initial controversy surrounding Brian De Palma' violent remake of Scarface had evaporated and the film had become something of a high-profile cult classic. A re-teaming of the film's director and star Al Pacino, Carlito's Way was marketed as its followup -- and it is, though not necessarily in the way most would expect. While Scarface starred Pacino as a character whose all-encompassing appetite leads him to climb higher and higher in the underworld, in Carlito's Way he plays a world-weary character seeking only to get out. In place of the drug-fueled mania of Tony Montana, Pacino uses silence and knowing looks to convey a miles-deep sadness. It's a masterful performance in a film that has much to recommend it, in particular a handful of deftly-executed set pieces, a tremendous feel for its disco-era setting, and a terrific supporting cast (Luis Guzman, John Leguizamo, and especially Sean Penn). But ultimately it's the elegiac mood of the film that stays longest in the memory, as De Palma and company escalate B-movie material into a meditation on aging and fate. Severely underrated at the time, this is a film that just looks better as the years go by. (In fact, Cahiers Du Cinema would later pronounce it the best of the decade.)