Though Robinson and Cagney give two of the greatest and most iconic performances in their respective films, Paul Muni as Tony Camonte is more nuanced. And despite the fact that he is clearly a villain, he's surprisingly easy to root for; that is, when he's not slapping his sister around.
The only time the film drags at all is when it veers away from Camonte's criminal life to show the other side, the Law and the concerned citizenry. Luckily there is only one extended scene of that.
Otherwise, "Scarface" surprisingly keeps a quick pace and has visual style to spare--two things that are a breath of fresh air in the context of the time period--showing why Howard Hawks was one of the best film directors in the history of the medium. Even the two female characters, which are usually just around for eye candy and plot points in these films, are interesting, complex characters, thanks to good writing by Ben Hecht and crew and stand-out performances by Ann Dvorak and Karen Morley.
Easily one of the best gangster films of the cinema's nearly 90-year history in the genre.
This (and the De Palma remake) could have been a modern Macbeth, but doesn't quite get there.
The preformance of the women were supeuyb. They are what really put this film over the top of films like the Godfather. Tony's sister is indeed much like Tony. I think of her the same way as Virginia Wolf thinks of Shakesperes sister in, "A Room of One's Own". The dancing scene where she tells Guino, "I'm eighteen," is to me very similar to the scene between Tony and Johnny after Tony moves in on the North Side. They both act rashly, but very skillfully. They both act independantly of but still show respect for the one who is supposed to be in charge (assuming men are in charge of women). They both get what they want in the end, by whatever means nesacary. Poppy comes from a diffrent WASPy world than everyone else in the move . She is the only characher who ever wears white. When Tony leaves town Poppy wears black and Tony's sister wears white. In the end Poppy is the only one who hasn't fallen, in fact she is better off than when she began (like Daisy from, "The Great Gatsby." Poppy is also a very ambitious woman, but that is where the similariteis end. Poppy wants stuff and uses men to get them. Tony's sister wants men (one man, but possibly just for the course of this picture), and she doesn't manipulate them. She simply takes them, just like Tony.
Tony is one of the most facinating charachters in cinema history. He is a simple man. His simplicity frequently comes off comicly (such as when he doesn't know what effimanate or gaudy mean), but always realistically. My favorite Tony moment is when he is being shot at and all emotion he experiences is the joy from discovering a new type of gun.
The source music is the best of any gangster film. The club scene as well as "Wreck of the Old 97," and lets not forget the whistling. The newspaper man was great but felt tacked on, probalbly because the writer was a newspaperman (The Final Season of The Wire did something similar, but it was more intigrated into the plot. I think though that some other area may have done the job better in that Final Season). There is a girl named Maybe which proves that Arrested Devealopment did not make it up. Also, I don't know why, but the Model T's (Probably A's actually or even something later) seemed faster in this movie than any Mustang or X-Wing.
The remake, I think, overdid it. The shootout of this film was toned down, but better. The rules in this film were, "do it first, do it yourself, keep on doin it," were better than the remake. These two were the signature scenes of the remake and the original did both better. There were other scenes in this movie that were better than those two. Also in the remake there was no room for a Boris Karlofff. The intensity made comic relief imposible.
Overall this film sets the pace for all gangster films to follow.
Scarface: Say what's this writ you got me out on
Lawyer: Habeus Corpus, deliver the body, can't hold you without booking you. No matter what they think you've done
Scarface: Say, that's a fine idea You tell Flemming I want lot's of those