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Scarface (1983)

tomatometer

88

Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 59
Fresh: 52 | Rotten: 7

Director Brian De Palma and star Al Pacino take it to the limit in this stylized, ultra-violent and eminently quotable gangster epic that walks a thin white line between moral drama and celebratory excess.

80

Average Rating: 7.6/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 1

Director Brian De Palma and star Al Pacino take it to the limit in this stylized, ultra-violent and eminently quotable gangster epic that walks a thin white line between moral drama and celebratory excess.

audience

94

liked it
Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 482,646

My Rating

Movie Info

Al Pacino stars as Tony Montana, an exiled Cuban criminal who goes to work for Miami drug lord Robert Loggia. Montana rises to the top of Florida's crime chain, appropriating Loggia's cokehead mistress (Michelle Pfeiffer) in the process. Howard Hawks' "X Marks the Spot" motif in depicting the story line's many murders is dispensed with in the 1983 Scarface; instead, we are inundated with blood by the bucketful, especially in the now-infamous buzz saw scene. One carry-over from the original

R,

Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense

Oliver Stone

Sep 30, 2003

$0.7M

Universal Films

Watch It Now

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All Critics (60) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (52) | Rotten (7) | DVD (44)

Viewed today, while Scarface seems less shocking than it did during its initial theatrical run, it's no more substantive or interesting.

April 30, 2009 Full Review Source: ReelViews | Comments (35)
ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An unashamed study of selfish, sadistic criminality, and all the better for it.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

What were Pacino's detractors hoping for? Something internal and realistic? Low key? The Tony Montana character is above all a performance artist, a man who exists in order to gloriously be himself.

January 15, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times | Comments (2)
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I like it as a kind of B-movie version of The Godfather. There are a lot of classic lines and a handful of memorably horrific scenes ...

September 29, 2003 Full Review Source: Ebert & Roeper | Comments (2)
Ebert & Roeper
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The dominant mood of the film is anything but funny. It is bleak and futile: What goes up must always come down. When it comes down in Scarface, the crash is as terrifying as it is vivid and arresting.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One fundamentally dishonest character choice launched a billion-dollar industry. But it hardly sours a film that became a garishly ghoulish, bleakly funny and compulsively watchable template for modern-criminal deconstructions of the American Dream.

January 3, 2014 Full Review Source: Suite101.com
Suite101.com

By ignoring its massive, toxic, nuclear-fallout shortcomings, it finds its way to the hallowed status of camp classic.

December 11, 2013 Full Review Source: Mania.com
Mania.com

one of Brian DePalma's best films

August 26, 2013 Full Review Source: 7M Pictures
7M Pictures

...much, much longer than it generally needs to be...

February 15, 2012 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

One of the best gangster dramas ever made, driven by Pacino's haunting performance and De Palma's lightning pace.

January 29, 2012 Full Review Source: IGN DVD
IGN DVD

It's a whole new spin on the immigrant story and the American Dream as an underworld nightmare and a fitting bookend to the two Godfather films.

September 15, 2011 Full Review Source: MSN.com
MSN.com

the very definition of excess, which is perhaps why it has persisted so long as a cultural totem: Its florid pleasures can never be exhausted

September 12, 2011 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

Paciono gives a riveting performance in the lead in De Palma's over-the-top but engaging modern version of the classic gangster

April 24, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com | Comments (3)
EmanuelLevy.Com

Extremely violent '80s crime classic with drugs, sex, etc.

January 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Pacino's bravura performance dominates, making no concessions to our sensibilities. And the final shootout is a tour de force of editing.

August 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Film4 | Comment (1)
Film4

Still a must-see for Pacino's potent and influential performance.

August 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Guardian
Guardian

Scarface has become a touchstone of pop culture, one of the half dozen or so most frequently referenced films of our era.

August 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Times [UK]
Times [UK]

This almost Jacobean tale of drug gangsters in 1980s Miami is rather too long for the points it makes, but is nevertheless riveting and still, after 26 years, remarkably fresh.

August 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Times [UK]
Times [UK]

De Palma's film is now back on the big screen and looking better than ever.

August 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Observer [UK]
Observer [UK]

Pacino's drug-crazed, bloodshot performance gives this gangster movie a terrifying edge.

August 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Sky Movies
Sky Movies

[Pacino's] grandstanding performance is still hard to resist and symbolises the baroque excess of this shockingly violent gangster classic.

August 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Daily Express
Daily Express

As overrated as it is overlong.

August 21, 2009 Full Review Source: Total Film | Comments (2)
Total Film

To call the whole thing visceral is a palpable understatement.

August 21, 2009 Full Review Source: This is London
This is London

Pacino, of course, goes way over the top and through the floor on the other side.

August 13, 2007 Full Review Source: eFilmCritic.com
eFilmCritic.com

Audience Reviews for Scarface

"Scarface" is one of those must see films that everyone who loves crime thrillers needs to see, if only for the intense character portrait of crime. This three hour gore fest tells the tale of Cuban refugee Tony Montagna, who rises through the ranks of a crime syndicate until he is the reigning king of the drug scene in eighties' Miami. What fascinates viewers is the fragility of the organization, and how fraught with violence the film is, initially putting a lot of people off. Tony only gets as far as he does because he trusts no one, is only out for himself, and revels in the blood and cocaine madness of his empire. While he comes to the United States bedraggled and full of vinegar, he slowly morphs into an opportunistic henchman, happy to be seen as the working man, oblivious to the death and destruction of his actions, and jealous of everyone and everything that stands in his way. He is our protagonist but he is also our villain, so bloodthirsty and autonomous that it's pretty frightening to think he holds most of the power. Though Tony breaks down doors in order to become the king, he also steps on a lot of people to get there, so it's obvious that his world will crumble around him quickly. The casting is perfect for this film. Pacino portrays an embittered, hate-filled Montagna, which makes for a volatile performance. Michelle Pfeiffer stars as the prize that he longs to grasp within his claws, while being both frigidly cold and hopelessly angry, making for a great dynamic between the two characters. Besides this film being great in its realistic depiction of a drug enterprise, it's also a great crime film. The seventies and eighties were rife with stories of kingpins and gangsters, but this is the first that shows the arrogance and self-indulgence of cocaine, and its place in real life 1980s Miami. This film both demonizes the exploits of its lead while also showing the extravagance that crime comes with, and that's an intense balance to find. De Palma masters this balance by showing the motivations of the character, and the lengths he is willing to go to find success in his adopted country. That's why this film stands the test of time, and illustrates the grandiosity of the drug trade in full.
April 28, 2014
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

[img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]
September 25, 2013
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

Scarface is often held up at the quintessential violent gangster film. While The Godfather series is arguably the most revered gangster saga, Scarface is the film whose posters adorn student walls and whose many quotable scenes are a meme generator's wet dream. But after 30 years, the film that took so long to become cool has started to lose some of its sheen, and is now, for good and bad, the epitome of 1980s indulgence.

Scarface was a watershed for many a career. For Al Pacino, this performance can be seen as the beginning of his over-the-top streak, which slowly but surely started to erode his technique and which has rarely been reigned in since Scent of a Woman. For Oliver Stone, it was the film which launched his career: a few short years later he was the toast of Hollywood, directing Platoon and Wall Street and penning The Untouchables. And for Brian De Palma, it marks the point where his love of visual extravagance began to dominate his sense of discipline; his later works are, for the most part, a never-ending pursuit of style with little time or care for substance.

In remaking the 1932 film by Howard Hawks, Stone and De Palma shift the setting from Chicago to Florida and change the central crime from bootlegging alcohol to shipping cocaine. The original was modelled around the real-life gangster Al Capone - who allegedly liked the film so much that he bought one of the original prints. But while both films feature a protagonist who rises to the top by running his former bosses out of town, this version adds the twist of our lead being a foreigner. In making Tony Montana a Cuban immigrant, the filmmakers are attempting some kind of satire of the American dream, in which anyone can come to America and make it as a successful businessman.

At least, you'd like to think so. In reality Scarface is far more interested in how best to shoot excess or bloodbaths than it is in offering any insights into their cause, repercussions or wider meanings. No-one can deny De Palma's brilliance in terms of cinematography and choreography, not to mention his use of Giorgio Moroder's famous score. But once you stop admiring how well a given shot is framed, or how sleazy Pacino looks, there isn't a great deal more going on to justify the running time. In short, the film has all the style in the world, and all the depth of a teaspoon.

To put it another way, this is how The Godfather I & II would have looked, had Francis Ford Coppola only been interested in period detail. While both parts are longer than Scarface, clocking in at around 3 hours each, Coppola's films are better-paced, have much more nuanced characters and have a far greater amount of depth. Even in its slowest, quietest, least consequential moments, The Godfather series had a lot to say about family dynamics, the position of outsiders, the role of crime in American history and the corruption of the human soul. Scarface looks lavish and excessive, but it has nothing to say beyond the old adage that crime doesn't pay.

Part of the problem is that the film is incredibly episodic. It takes an awfully long time to set up Tony Montana, and an equally long time to go through the familiar motions of a gangster story: the initial encounters, the rapid rise, the enjoyment of one's success turning to hubris, and the fall from grace. The film is one of many memorable moments which loosely connect together until the last 20 minutes - which might help to explain why it is so easily quotable. You might say that this this is the closest we got to a Quentin Tarantino film before Quentin Tarantino; certainly the violence rivals anything in Reservoir Dogs or Pulp Fiction.

One of the big disappointments of Scarface is that De Palma doesn't make a great deal out of the modern-day setting. This is surprising considering what a political filmmaker Stone is: you would expect him to use an event like the Havana boatlift as a springboard for some kind of commentary on race relations or American politics. The opening montage is very well-assembled, so that we cannot tell whether we are watching actual news footage or fake footage shot on different formats (something that Stone is known to do). But after this there is little or no attempt made to tie Montana's story into wider ideas about immigration, police corruption or the influence of Latin America on American crime.

More than any other film of the 1980s, Scarface raises the question: at what point does depicting excess become revelling in excess? We're not just talking about the impressively stylised violence, but also the lifestyle enjoyed by Montana, Sosa and the other characters. The film's narrative arc and unlikeable, sleazy characters would seem to support the argument that the visual excess demonstrates how bankrupt their lifestyle is. But this is somewhat undermined by the many long, wide-angle establishing shots which show off the characters' wealth. The director may not approve, but the camera is in love with the money.

Ultimately the visual style of Scarface is enough to drive the film over the line of ambivalence. We're still left with plenty of questions about the intentions of the film, but the experience of watching it is so full-on that these concerns are not always at the forefront of our minds. The film is operatic in scale and intent, with every scene playing on big emotions and impulse where The Godfather thrived on subtlety and nuance. It's not hard to see the influence of the film in contemporary music videos, with the 'push it to the limit' montage being a good example of what was to come.

Accepting the operatic nature of Scarface is in many ways the secret to appreciating it. We could sit there looking at our watches, wondering where cuts could have been made or whether in real life the characters would behave like this. Or we can take the grandiosity and indulgence at face value, seeing them as extensions of the acting style and regarding the film as a hallucinogenic trip. The film unwittingly draws us into the same high as the characters, and our discomfort and desire for things to be over is as much out of objective frustration as it is a shared subjective experience.

If we allow ourselves to be seduced by Scarface's repulsive extravagance, the performances begin to feel like more than pantomime tomfoolery. In any other context Al Pacino would come across as a ham, but Tony Montana is so larger-than-life, so much a symbol rather than an individual, that he holds our attention even in his nastiest, scuzziest moments. Paul Shenar is terrific as Alejandro Sosa, conveying genuine threat while keeping suave and restrained. And Michelle Pfeiffer manages to make the best out of what is essentially a nothing role. Pfeiffer would later joke that she won her part when she accidentally cut Pacino with a plate during her screen test.

Having flannelled around and drawn itself out for so long, Scarface really starts to gather pace and reward its audience in the final act. The last 20 minutes are worth the price of admission alone, as all the different aspects of Tony's life begin to collapse and the film begins to focus on what little it has been trying to say all alone. In these last few scenes the screen is veritably dripping with cocaine, and we find ourselves in the middle of Tony's desperate and tragic high. The final fire-fight is very well-orchestrated and the pay-off is both memorable and blackly funny.

Scarface is a bloated and indulgent epic which leaves its audience enthralled, exhausted and ambivalent all at once. Enjoying it involves suspending a great deal of critical judgement, treating the film as an experience rather than an analysis, and for all its memorable moments it is ultimately very shallow. But for all its many flaws and excesses, it remains an essential watch, for those who can last the distance and tolerate its reckless showboating.
March 30, 2013
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

At the time this movie came out there was no better actor out there than the great Al Pacino who could brilliantly bring Tony Montana to life in this classic remake of the 1932 Howard Hawks film of the same title. When "Scarface"came out in 1983,it was panhandle by audiences and critics for its use of strong graphic violence and gory content along with persuasive scenes of drug abuse and raw language. This was the forefront of the "gangsta" flick and it shows here in graphic detail directed by Brian DePalma.
January 30, 2013
rayman0071
Mister Caple

Super Reviewer

    1. Tony Montana: You know what i'm talkin' about you fucking cockaroach.
    – Submitted by Daniel L (50 days ago)
    1. Tony Montana: You want to play games? Okay, I play with you.
    – Submitted by Kia M (16 months ago)
    1. Elvira: So, you want to dance, Frank, or you want to sit there and have a heart attack?
    – Submitted by Kia M (16 months ago)
    1. Bernstein: Don't go too far, Tony.
    2. Tony Montana: I'm not, Mel, you are.
    3. Bernstein: You can't shoot a cop!
    4. Tony Montana: Who ever said you was one?
    5. Bernstein: Wait a minute! You let me go, I'll fix this up.
    6. Tony Montana: Sure, Mel. Maybe you can hand yourself one of them first-class tickets to the Resurrection. So long, Mel, have a nice trip.
    7. Bernstein: Fuck you!
    – Submitted by Kia M (16 months ago)
    1. Tony Montana: You die, motherfucker!
    – Submitted by Kia M (16 months ago)
    1. Immigration Officer: Where'd you learn English, Tony?
    2. Tony Montana: In school. And my father, he was from the United States, just like you, you know? He was a Yankee, he used to take me a lot to the movies. I learned, I watched the guys like Humphrey Bogart, James Cagney. They teach me to talk. I like those guys. I always know one day I'm coming here, United States.
    – Submitted by Kia M (16 months ago)
View all quotes (65)

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