Great movie..and I can see why it is underrated; possibly due to obvious comparisons to Scarface (Brian De Palma, Martin Bregman, Al Pacino team), which was much more brutal in its approach.
Al Pacino stars as Carlito Brigante, an ex-gangster, who with the help of his lawyer and friend David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn) beats his 30 years prison sentence and gets out in 5 years. Carlito has made up his mind to go clean and never to go in the coke business he used to be involved in. He plans to make enough money in order to start a car rental business. In order to do so, he partners up with a man called Saso and starts running his local disco.
Things seem to be in place, but certain elements seem to be working against him and his plans. Carlito soon discovers that once you are in, you are in, and it is one hell of a task to get out of it!
The plot somewhat reminded me of "The Godfather Part III".
It could almost also qualify as a sequel to "Scarface", had Montana been alive and decided to go clean!
Only Al Pacino as Carlito, awesome as he is, is still much softer compared to the sledgehammer Tony Montana.
And then there is some romance mixed in with the story of a gangster trying to reform himself. Carlito looks up his old girlfriend Gail (Penelope Ann Miller) who now works as a dancer in a nightclub and attempts to win her back.
I didn't like the romantic scenes myself...thought they interrupted the flow of the story...hence I gave it a 9 instead of a 10! There is also some clichťd dialogue. I happen to be a big Pacino fan and so I am being a little bit (though not entirely) biased and am sidelining all these things. If you excuse these small potatoes, this one is a great flick from start to finish, very entertaining, well-directed by Brian De Palma and with some fantastic performances from the supporting cast.
Sean Penn is superb as the coke snorting lawyer David Kleinfeld. This is definitely one of his best, yet less known performances.
John Leguizamo makes a very memorable appearance as Benny Blanco from the Bronx, a wannabe gangster who initially thinks very highly of Carlito.
Luis Guzman does pretty well as Pachanga who assists Carlito in running the club.
Special mention, also, of Viggo Mortensen who comes in for a short role, but plays the part wonderfully.
As for Al Pacino in lead role, he makes sure he steals the show, as usual. Brilliant!