Infinitely quotable and more than a little cartoonish, Brian De Palma's update of Howard Hawks' seminal gangster film revels in its freedom to be larger than life. A work as akin to pop art as any other form, it reworks the crime melodrama in bold, primary colors, mostly blood red. Attracting a great deal of attention for its violence at the time of its release, the controversy overshadowed the fact that everything in the film ran to extremes, including Pacino's performance, the director's visual style (which found him almost reverting to The Fury mode), the dialogue (from a script co-written by Oliver Stone), and most importantly the themes. Scarface focuses on words like "crime" and "America," then lets itself run wild with the associations. That a classically American rise-and-fall story forms the heart of the film is its simplest and best irony. The experience will probably be thrilling to some, particularly those already enthusiastic about De Palma's work, and extremely off-putting to others. Tony Montana may not be an appealing character with which to spend nearly three hours, but there's little chance of forgetting the experience.
by Keith Phipps review