Carlito's Way - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Carlito's Way Reviews

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Super Reviewer
March 22, 2015
De Palma's electric set pieces are peppered throughout a faltered narrative, but Pacino and Penn hold it all together exceptionally well.
Super Reviewer
½ July 30, 2006
A decade after they lit the place up with Scarface, Brian De Palma and Al Pacino reteam for another compelling crime drama involving the drug trade- a gripping film that shows the consequences of a life of crime from a much more real and gritty perspective point of view than Scarface. Not that Scarface is a bad movie, it's a great film, but this one is just more human.

Carlito "Charlie" Brigante has just been released from prison after serving 5 years of a 30 year sentence thanks to the work of his scheming and smarmy lawyer Dave Kleinfeld. Now that he's out, Carlito decides to go the straight and narrow, and cut ties with his old life. He's got big dreams ahead of him, and, noble as they may be, he finds it hard to completely let go of the past.

As I said above, it's a very human film, and it goes for the heart as much as it does for the throat. Yeah, the film has shades of familiarity (what film doesn't?) but it's very well played. De Palma tones down some of the manic camera work, and there's no split screen, but we do get some good long takes and tracking shots, and that typical feeling of being inside the event of the film that he's known for doing. It's a gorgeous picture, and you truly get immersed in Carlito's world.

It's set in the 70s (I believe, as the film doesn't make it too obvious, but it feels like that's what they're trying for), and the details, though subtle, are nice. This could have been more overt, but they went for restraint, and that makes the picture a lot stronger I think.

It's also got some terrific performances. Pacino once again stuns as Carlito, and I dig the beard he brings with his accent. Sean Penn is tremendous as Kleinfeld, and he's the kind of coked-out worm you love to hate. Luis Guzman and John Leguizamo provide some decent supporting performances, and Penelope Ann Miller is fine as Carlito's old/rekindled flame Gale, but the real treat acting wise is the brief cameo from a young and barely recognizable Viggo Mortensen as an old wheelchair-bound associate of Carlito's. It's a truly remarkable appearance.

All in all, this is a wonderful film. It's long, but it doesn't feel like a chore. You get to know the characters and world, and you really try to root for them and hope that a more mature perspective on the world will yield better results. Definitely give this one a shot. Truly one of De Palma's finest.
Super Reviewer
November 24, 2009
One of the best crime dramas of the 90's.

Excellent Gangster Film! Carlito's Way (1993), is a brilliant cinematic work. Pacino's performance as Carlito Berganzi displays the duplicity and subsequent torment between his reformed spirit, and the endless seduction of the street, embodied more specifically as his reputation,legacy,those who know him, of him, and those whom he allows in his innermost circle. Sean Penn is phenomenal as the lawyer representing Carlito, his metamorphosis into character is testament to his depth of talent. Penelope Ann Miller, as the long-suffering love of Carlito's life is dramatically and visually enchanting. The casting is perfect. The supporting cast superb, perfectly augmenting the film. The script is alive with literary devices, the story line(s), characters, dialogue, themes, sub-texts,etc., make this an almost endlessly watchable film. This is by far one of Pacino's best movies in his career and he should've definitely at least been nominated for an Oscar. Definitely worth to be in your collection if you're a fan of crime dramas or gangster flicks.

A Puerto Rican ex-con pledges to stay away from his former drug dealing ways but finds himself being dragged back by his past connections and the naive machinations of his lawyer and best friend. Hoping to raise enough money to get away from New York, Carlito Brigante takes on the job of running a nightclub, renews an affair with a dancer but old associates and old instincts suck him back into a world of violence and mistrust.
Super Reviewer
April 2, 2011
Carlito: I don't invite this shit, it just comes to me. I run, it runs after me. Gotta be somewhere to hide.†

"He wanted out. He'd do anything to get there."

On one hand I love Carlito's Way for the performances from Pacino and Penn, for De Palma's signature touch of violence, and for how the story progresses on the back of its characters. Still, I can't help feeling like this isn't as good as it should be. It's good, but far from being an amazing film. With the talent in front of and behind the camera, I just always expect more. But still as it is, it is still a pretty fantastic piece of the Crime Drama genre. It doesn't reach the point of De Palma and Pacino's Scarface, but it is better than 90% of the other movies that try to do a story like this.

Carlito has just been released from prison where he was serving a thirty year sentence. Instead, he is released after just five because his lawyer, Kleinfeld was able to get him off on a technicality. Carlito expresses right from the out set that he wants to be done with the gangster scene. All he wants to do is make some money so that he can move down to the Bahama's with his girlfriend Gail. Things don't go that perfectly though as his friends are constantly bringing him back into the gangster scene. The film is very character driven, but as the plot progresses, it leads to an extremely suspenseful final twenty minutes. De Palma just knows how to shoot amazing scenes on stairs in train stations. The one here resembles the one in The Untouchables to a high degree.†

The movie is weakest when the narration is going on. The dialogue for it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the movie. It just feels very awkward and even silly. Whenever I hear the voice over come on, I just wish that it wasn't in the film, or at least cut down a little.

Carlito's Way does have some amazing scenes as you would expect from De Palma. I already mentioned the scene in the train station. But the best scene in the movie is the first time we see Carlito pulled down into crime. He goes on a drug pickup with his cousin. The pickup doesn't go very well and a lot of shooting ensues. It all is capped off by one of the coolest little speeches ever.

While this isn't a masterpiece, it is still a worthwhile film for sure. De Palma has made better movies than this, but it still shows a lot of what makes him great. It is hard to watch this and not compare it to Scarface, but you should probably try your hardest not to.

Carlito: I'm reloaded! Okay? Come on in here, you motherfuckers! Come on, I'm waitin' for ya! What, you ain't comin' in? Okay, I'm comin' out! Oh, you up against me now, motherfuckers! I'm gonna blow your fuckin' brains out! You think you're big time? You gonna fuckin' die big time! You ready? HERE COMES THE PAIN!†
Super Reviewer
May 13, 2008
Luiz Guil-whatever-his-name-is-Pugface-lookin samoan... its like everything Pacino says he just repeats it: "yo Benny you gots ta pay me!!!" "yeah,Benny u gots ta pay him!"
Super Reviewer
July 12, 2007
DePalma delivers a work w/o the overexaggerated Hitchcockian tricks of yore and the result is taut, edge-of-your-seat film-making. Pacino is restrained, powerful, while Penn's arc into paranoid coke frenzy plays vividly true. A worthy addition in anyone's gangster film collection.
Super Reviewer
½ February 20, 2011
Carlitos Way is yet another top notch Al Pacino gangster film in which we see legendary 'Carlito Brigante' try to cut his ties with the underworld and make it on his own, straight.

The storyline is solid and well paced, the characters are well developed and with Al Pacino on board its hard to go wrong. Sean Penn as the bent lawyer Kleinfeld is excellent and its really his actions that make you sit up and get involved with this film.

Similar to the Godfather Part III, Carlito thinks he's finally free and can go follow his dream of renting cars to tourists in some far away paradise. However, just like Michael Corleone, just when he thinks hes out, they pull him right back!

The lengthy cat and mouse end sequence is attention grabbing and keeps you guessing until the very end. Yes this is Al Pacino. Yes this is another gangster film. And Yes, we are all still watching and for good reason!

"Favor gonna kill you faster than a bullet. "
Super Reviewer
½ October 18, 2007
Pretty decent gangster movie. Viggo Mortensen is in a wheelchair and complains about pooping his pants everyday. You can't pass up cinematic gold like that. Pacino does an excellent job as always playing the same character.
Super Reviewer
January 9, 2011
Not as good as Scarface.. but, really, is any drug&gun movie as good as that one?!
I really wanted Carlito to get out and have an honest life, the ending could have been different. But it was really good and thrilling.. well done mob/thug/crime drama, with a great cast.
Super Reviewer
½ December 25, 2006
A Puerto Rican drug dealer is released from prison with the full intention of going straight, but circumstances make it increasingly difficult. Carlito's Way feels like the other side of the coin to De Palma's earlier collaboration with Pacino, Scarface. In this film the protagonist is an essentially good man doing his best to stay out of trouble, something made impossible by crooked, jewfro-ed best friend Sean Penn. As is always the case with De Palma, subtlety is thrown straight out of the window and his comic strip direction means it's hardly the height of sophistication. It is however always entertaining thanks to enjoyable turns from the double act of Pacino and Penn and the lurid environment of 70s New York makes a colourful backdrop to the slapstick violence. On the downside, Penelope Ann Miller is kind of a plank and De Palma should realise that giving away the ending at the beginning of the film only works when there are clever twists and turns during the journey. Otherwise all you're doing is, well, giving away the ending. Not exactly The Godfather, but it's a lot better than the over-rated Scarface.
Super Reviewer
½ October 23, 2010
What I liked about it most was the angle. And the camera angles. But those are two different things. While this wanting to get out while getting sucked back in, is a mildly used plot line, though a whole film dedicated to it, it interesting. And I am really not a big Sean Penn girl, but he was okay in this. Didn't like the character, but you weren't supposed to...
It was nice and well done, but I don't need to watch it again.
Clintus M.
Super Reviewer
October 6, 2010
This is DePalma's Godfather and one of my favorites by him. Its a cult classic and great vehicle for several big stars who give memorable performances. Pacino has never been better, even in DePalma's Scarface, Penelope Ann Miller was better than expected, and John Lezigamo shone brilliantly in the first serious starring role. Sean Penn, however, steals the show as the brutally sleazy lawyer; tremendous acting. This is a tale of redemption,revenge,and new beginnings as well as a typical opera by the director. The New York locations heighten the realism; I believed I was in the thick of the action. Urban crime dramas don't get much better than this.
Super Reviewer
June 19, 2010
10 years after they first collaborated and brought Tony Montana to the screen in "Scarface", Brian DePalma and Al Pacino team up again for yet another foray into the crime world.
Pacino plays Puerto-Rican drug dealer Carlito Brigante who has just been released from prison due to some diligent defending from his trusted lawyer and friend Davie Kleinfeld (Sean Penn). Upon his release, he is immediately back in contact with his old cohorts from the streets and recieves several offers to get him back in business, but Carlito is determined to go straight and make a better life for himself and girlfriend Gail (Penelope Ann Miller). The problem is, he needs money to escape the life of crime so agrees to run a nightclub for as long as it takes to earn his money and move on. However, as much as he's finished with his previous life, his previous life is not finished with him as old and new faces appear, testing his resolve.
DePalma's "Scarface" has a proud and faithful following but with "Carlito's Way" he has outdone himself. There are some similarities with both films and Brigante could also be seen as an aging Montana but the reason it works better this time around is the investment we have with Carlito. He is a more human and sympathetic character and we want to see him succeed. Pacino also underplays it this time with a lot more subtlety and a lot less grandstanding, immediately winning us over. There is also some brilliant support from Sean Penn who oozes sleaze and distrust and is more of a danger to Carlito due to his spiralling cocaine habit and the bad company he keeps. John Leguizamo is also a standout as Benny Blanco "from the Bronx", a young but dangerous hood out to make a name for himself and a short but powerful appearance from Viggo Mortensen as a strung out disabled addict, who also has his own interests at heart. These and other fine actors are all handled effortlessly by DePalma who's also not adverse to showing us some flamboyant and skillful camerawork during exciting action scenes without detracting from the tension.
Although it may not be as "epic" as some other crime films, it without doubt deserves to be considered as equal to the best in the genre and definitely DePalma's best film.
Super Reviewer
½ March 30, 2010
Carlito‚??s way is basically a more serious approach to the crime genre then Brian De Palma gave us with Scarface. I really enjoyed all the first person shots, for some reason it really helps you sympathize with Carlito and the fact that he‚??s always in the wrong place at the wrong time. Al Pacino, much like his director, takes his role a lot more serious this time around, but he still has a lot of fun with the character. Sean Penn is also extremely good as Klienfeld, his Jewish lawyer. It reminds me a lot of the development Robert De Niro did for The Untouchables, demanding a huge physical presence. I would say it is in many ways the biggest transition De Palma made as a director because it became less about the visuals and more about the story. Not to say that his preceding films aren‚??t amazing, they are, it‚??s just a nice change and reflects his well rounded talent as a director.
Super Reviewer
½ March 8, 2007
This is the coolest gangster films I ever seen. Al Pacino delivers an excellent performance as the main guy Carlito who just wants out of the whole gangster game. By his side is the almost unrecognisable Sean Penn. An afro wearing cocaine addict who just seems determined to lure Carlito back into the kind of world he is trying to leave.
This film is easy to enjoy with a great story and a great cast. And if you look carefully enough you can see a young Viggo Mortensen as a crippled low life. Made me chuckle.
Super Reviewer
½ May 3, 2009
Carlito's Way starring Al Pacino, Penelope Ann Miller and John Leguizamo is a good drama. Pacino plays an ex con whom is trying to stay on the right side of the track and meets a beautiful young lady...I really enjoyed this movie.
Super Reviewer
½ October 30, 2008
Carlito: "I'm reloaded! Okay? Come on in here, you motherfuckers! Come on, I'm waitin' for ya! What, you ain't comin' in? Okay, I'm comin' out! Oh, you up against me now, motherfuckers! I'm gonna blow your fuckin' brains out! You think you're big time? You gonna fuckin' die big time! You ready? HERE COMES THE PAIN!"

Al Pacino is Carlito Brigante, a high-level Puerto Rican drug dealer sprung from a three-decade jail sentence after only five years, thanks to a technicality and his sleazy, cocaine-addled lawyer, Dave Kleinfeld (Sean Penn). Carlito renounces his previous ways and takes a job as the manager of a club that Kleinfeld has invested in, planning to save enough money so that he can eventually move to the Caribbean. But no sooner is Carlito back on the streets of New York than his old life claws at him in the form of both old partners (Luis Guzman) and vicious up-and-comers (John Leguizamo). Nevertheless, Carlito stays clean and even restarts his relationship with a dancer named Gail (Penelope Ann Miller), until he is finally led astray by Kleinfeld, who manipulates Carlito into participating in the murder of a Mafia don from whom Kleinfeld has stolen a million dollars. At that point, the race is on to see whether Carlito and Gail can escape his world for good.

Once again, one of the greatest actors of our time teams up with one of the greatest directors. Ther combination must surely be as good as, if not better than, Scorsese and De Niro. First the excellent Scarface, and then Carlito's Way, a film that blew me away when I first saw it. Pacino's portrayal of ex-gangland boss and drug dealer Carlito Brigante is powerful, moving and at times very funny. Combined with great performances from Sean Penn and Penelope Ann Miller, this film is a roller-coaster ride of "will he, won't he" tension and heavy , though not gratuitous, violence. So swept away do we get in Carlito's struggle that we actually forget that he's dying at the beginning of the film, and are praying that he'll make it by the end. This is a masterstroke from De Palma and a salute to the powerful and mesmeric acting of one Alfredo Pacino. A modern classic - this film has everything you could want. Love, loyalty, betrayal, sadness, comedy, and most importantly of all - balls.
Super Reviewer
November 26, 2008
How has this film eluded me the past 15 years???I love mob/gangster movies, and this is one of the best. Al Pacino plays tough-as-nails gangster Carlito who is trying to change his ways since recently being exonerated from prison by his low-life attorney (played by Sean Penn). However, Carlito is unable to escape his past. Carlito's Way is directed by mobster afficianado Brian DePalma, who also directed Scarface. Everything about this film is authentic NY mobster's way of living. I'm one of those people who is intrigued by this genre, and DePalma is King of his craft. He masterfully sets the mood in this film.Al Pacino is an icon of mobsters. I have a hard time believing he is NOT a mobster in real life because he does it so perfectly... it's like second nature to him. However, I'm not going to jump on the Sean Penn bandwagon on this film. I think he was horribly cast here. He was annoying and unconvincing. I believe he is a top-notch actor, but I wasn't impressed with his earlier roles such as this one. Luis Guzman plays his stereotypical token good-guy sidekick mafia well. I loved John Leguizamo's small role ... he's an incredibly underrated actor.The only downside to this film (and DePalma's films in general) is that it's a bit long-winded. Some lengthy scenes were rather unnecessary and could have been edited out. Also the notion of disbelief in reality must be present, because in this film cops either (1) don't exist or (2) don't do anything to protect citizens or to punish criminals. Most of the hits in this film were done in broad daylight with witnesses and cameras (like in the hospital).Overall, if you're a fan of mob/gangster movies then you should definitely check this out. The gun battles are exciting, the mobsters are slick and cool, the pace is thrilling, the plot is rich with turns, and the women are very attractive.
Super Reviewer
½ July 20, 2008
In short, "Carlito's Way" is the great movie that "Scarface" should have been. Interestingly, the old-fashioned plot - a criminal's thwarted attempt to become a legitimate businessman - is essentially the same as that of "The Godfather" saga, the crucial difference being that Pacino's Michael Corleone is a good guy who turns rotten, whereas his Carlito Brigante is a bad guy eager to mend his wicked ways: Corruption versus Redemption. One of the limitations of a Corruption storyline is that the audience frequently fails to empathise with the loathsome central character; the main reason I don't like "Scarface", De Palma's Corruption gangster movie, is that it is short on plot and long on running time, although it certainly doesn't help that Tony Montana is a vicious little bastard who is impossible to care about. Carlito, by way of contrast, is immensely likeable and, as with Harvey Keitel's Charlie in Scorsese's "Mean Streets" (which I prefer to the otherwise critically unassailable "GoodFellas" because, frankly, I don't really give a shit what happens to Ray Liotta by the end of that movie) the film is propelled by our desperation for him to succeed, coupled with our almost certain knowledge that he shall not do so.

Rarely have De Palma's bravura set pieces been as unobtrusively subservient to the storytelling as they are here, and the 'trick-shot' suspense scene and Grand Central Station finale rank among his finest work, even though the latter chase sequence does begin very lamely: "There he is! Come on!!!" Sean Penn - resembling a '70s-era Randy Newman with a receding hairline - is good fun in a showy but shallow role, but some of the supporting performances are far superior, particularly Viggo Mortensen as the treacherous Lalin, who deserves better than the slapdash, unresolved fate he receives. There is something preposterous about Carlito's relationship with the dancer, Gail, but the performances of Pacino and Penelope Ann Miller just about pull it off, producing De Palma's most tender and genuinely affecting scenes since "Carrie". I can actually find a lot of faults with "Carlito's Way" - for instance how a couple of long, prowling camera movements are scuppered by the bad acting of Jorge Porcel's Saso - but every time I watch it I'm willing the guy to catch that train, just one time. That's got to qualify as great filmmaking!
Super Reviewer
May 28, 2008
One of Pacino's best performances, Carlito's Way was done when Al was really on a roll after just finishing Scent Of A Woman and Glengarry Glen Ross. I'm not a fan of Scarface by any means, which might be why I enjoyed this movie a lot. Supporting roles done in magnificent fashion by Penn, Guzman and Leguizamo make this very enjoyable.
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