Friday, February 04, 2011

[DVD] Scarface (1983)

Big Machine Gun

Even if you have never seen Scarface the movie, you may have heard about its notoriety for having some of the most F-bombs uttered on film, and one of the most violent of all time with more than two thousand bullets fired and pumped into the bodies of victims, and that infamous chain saw dismemberment scene which in all honesty pales in comparison to lesser made torture porn flicks, and frankly, it isn't explicit, and that goes to show the brilliance in the filmmaking that allowed you to feel all the same.

Directed by Brian De Palma from a script written by Oliver Stone, Scarface is a remake of sorts of an old 30s Hollywood film now updated for the early 80s, set against the historical event when Fidel Castro's Cuba allowed Cubans to flood to the USA, but more so allowing prisoners from his jails to set sail for its neighbour. As such, this accounts for an expected increase in problems since you now have more people in your land but not as much opportunities being presented, and a life of crime is always enticing for one to go into when forced into a corner. And for Tony Montana (Al Pacino) and his best friend Manny Ribera (Steven Bauer), such is their introduction into a new life set about by their circumstances as new immigrants.

The film chronicles the meteoric rise of the foul mouthed Tony Montana from the lowest of the pecking order of a drug cartel, to his gaining of trust and proving of his usefulness to mob boss Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia), before breaking it all off to fund his own racket with ties linked to Bolivia's drug baron Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar), making tons of money, gaining plenty of influential power and the love of one his ex-boss' moll Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer), before falling prey to the long held mantra that one does not dabble into the bad habit one trafficked in, thus paving the way for increased paranoia to an inevitable, dramatic and violent downfall.

It puts under the microscope in some ways, a skewed scrutiny of the failed American dream, where it's applied to a life of crime with hard striving young men seeking the good life through shortcuts, seeing the money dished out by the barons as something to aspire to should they work at it in the same industry, where violence is part and parcel of the game to gain turf or get rid of competition. There's no right or wrong here since the authorities and help are easily available through the greasing of the right palms, where one can come to the country with nothing, and make it right to the top with the right connections and attitudes. But as they say, the power of greed knows no bounds, and

Al Pacino delivers a crazy, one hell of a kind performance as the cocksure Tony Montana from Cuba, eager to make it big in the world, and has only his balls and guts to rely on in his forceful barge into the big league of gangsters. Ruthless to the core with little positives to his character, Pacino portrays this gangster quite unlike the more quiet intellect required in his Godfather Michael Corleone role, and is in full contrast here though both also deal with his characters' ascension to power. Pacino owns Tony Montana in the way that can probably never be replicated, and goes down in cinematic history as one of the most foul-mouthed gangsters ever to grace the big screen. Steven Bauer puts up a commendable job as his right hand man Manny, though he disappears midway into the film before popping up in the last act, and a pity that the story didn't go beyond its potential of how this character could have, or not, had the world at his feet.

The two actresses in Michelle Pfeiffer and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio were really like gangster molls, seen and not heard for the most parts, except for the latter who as Gina Montana, Tony's sister, also undergo a transformation like her brother, though hers is for the worst. Introduced as sweet, nubile and full of innocence, we see how easy money from her brother's coffers turn her into what he loathes, and there's really that unnecessary hint of crossing that incestuous suggestion toward the end, which thankfully stopped at that. Michelle Pfeiffer was completed wasted as Elvira the classic gangster moll, a crack cocaine addict who preens and purrs most of the time, offering little except to look pretty in skimpy clothes.

Brian De Palma remains one of my favourite directors, and I've always associated him with a slickness in quality in his presentation. Scarface is no different, as he directs this violent epic filled with excesses and opulence to capture the spirit of the times and of the flamboyance of its characters, in a kind of operatic fashion laced with tragedy and poetic justice. While some aspects of the film didn't withstand the test of time, with the limit on how technology could have enhanced a scene through visual effects, De Palma though has crafted enough scenes on the whole to make Scarface one really memorable gangster film to have plenty of stuff to remember it by, and Stone's script has plenty of wonderful, iconic one liners that put Tony Montana on the pedestal with other contemporary gangster characters.

The Two Disc Platinum Edition of Scarface from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment comes integrated with three other movie disc sets as part of an omnibus Gangsters collection. Disc 1 contains the remastered version of the feature film presented in an anamorphic widescreen presentation, though some scenes were expectedly grainy coming from an 80s film, on the whole there wasn't any noticeable pops and cackles, with tremendous quality to it. There's an entirely new enhanced audio for the English language track, available in either 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS, and other audio options are in Spanish or French 2.0 Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in English Closed Captioned, Spanish and French, while scene selection for this close to three hour film is spread over 35 chapters.

The only Bonus Feature in Disc One is the Scarface Scorecard which lists down the number of F-bombs uttered and number of bullets fired in a running counter as the film went along, which stands at 226 and 2049 respectively by the time the end credits rolled.

Disc Two is the Bonus Features Disc, with most features in the letterbox format, audio in English Dolby Digital 2.0 only, and subtitles available in English Closed Captioned, Spanish and French.

The Deleted Scenes (22:30) presents a total of 15 such scenes that are presented in various stages of incompletion, and I'm not just about to list them all down, other than to point out that some are only a few seconds long such as Tony buying Gina clothes or that of Tony waiting for Frank to leave the club before approaching Elvira by the pool, while others are different takes of the same scene that made it to the movie, if only from a different angle, or a closeup. For instance, Tony and Manny's conversation in the internment camp, or that in the car drive around en route to the Colombian job. There was even a blooper, and of course those that were really snipped off from the final product such as Tony and Manny's visit to George the lawyer to get him on their payroll, and Tony talking to cops on patrol just as a bomb was put under a car.

I'm not sure why this feature got included, but it did. Making of Scarface: The Video Game (12:04) takes a look at the design of the open world game with a look at the graphics and interviews with the various voice actors. but more interestingly, is based on a storyline that's takes place in an alternate reality from the ending of the film, where you get to play Tony Montana and shoot yourself out of the mansion, get out of Florida, lie low, get back again and plot your revenge against Sosa. What's more, even the gameplay itself is filled with plenty of F-bombs, and buttons for you to taunt others in vulgar fashion. Guess I have to play it to see for myself!

The World of Tony Montana (11:39) is that walk into the fast and definitely seedier lifestyles of drug lords, as told by cops from various agencies who have to deal with them on a daily basis, explaining the crimes of the time, the social corruption, and how violence is part and parcel of the drug game, with paranoia being an inevitable by-product.

The next three features when combined together make quite a behind the scenes documentary. The Rebirth (10:09) begins with an introduction to the original Paul Muni film that was set during the Prohibition, before interviews with the various filmmakers such as Producer Marty Bregman, director Brian De Palma, writer Oliver Stone and actor Al Pacino reminisce about the project came to fruition. Nuggets of information such as how David Rabe was the first screenwriter, and how Sidney Lumet gave the team an idea to set it in the world of cocaine, and left the project as he disagreed with Stone's story. Oliver Stone's segments were perhaps the most enlightening as he recounted his own addiction, and his dangerous research done in South America, concluded with how he wasn't given the reins to direct this!

The Acting (15:06) touches on how the filmmakers decided on the cast of Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Loggia and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, while The Creating (29:35) is the meat in presenting the making-of equivalent, with interviews with the cast and crew talking about aspects of the film from the colour palette to the sets, how certain scenes such as that in the Babylon Club were filmed, and of course, the battle surrounding the initial X-rating this film was given.

Rounding off the bonus features disc is a look at TV Clips (2:49), which compare the differences between the actual movie shots, and those that had to be dubbed over for a general television audience, which means toning down the language significantly with some hilarious results, as well as the snipping of violence and nudity.
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