Scarface (1983)

The first scene sets the tone. Cuban mobster Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino, is being interrogated by US border officials, having arrived in Miami as part of the 1980 Cuban exodus. The camera is circling him: director Brian De Palma’s utilisation of long, creeping single takes – key to many of the film’s best scenes – accentuates Pacino’s dominance. It’s the look in his eye, his restlessness of movement, the calculated apprehension in his voice. Those facets are what make Scarface, and what keeps at bay its less auspicious production decisions. Guiltiest is composer Giorgo Moroder, whose jungle rhythms and luscious synths mark the score out as an ‘80s artefact which simultaneously dates the entire production with it. Nor is the narrative anything to write home about, proceeding as an unadventurous rise-and-fall that hues closely to gangster-movie cliché. Its staying power then will rest on how much Pacino and De Palma repay repeated viewing, which for now is a hedged judgement.


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