Scarface - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Scarface Reviews

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January 30, 2015
A strong indictment of the ubiquitous Chicago gangsters of the 1930s. Muni offers an excellent (if occasionally exaggerated) performance. Best Jewish imitation of an Italian I've seen since Estelle Getty in Golden Girls.

Not the most cogent or well-flowing story. Relies more on impact & isolated scenery. Seems in some way, choppy. Doesn't flow. Hard to follow. Like this paragraph.

The tirade from the wiser-than-thou reporter, who thought federal regulation was the answer to stopping crime, seemed out of place. Apparently, not much has changed in the media.

Anyway, it was extremely influential in the crime/gangster genre. There was some good pathos toward the end, but again, it ended up morphing into melodrama, & the ride there was pretty shaky.

It seems '30s women universally had bad posture.

However flawed, much better than the Pacino movie.
December 29, 2014
One of the seminal gangster films of the 1930s, along with Public Enemy and Little Caesar, stars Paul Muni as fast rising bootlegger Tony Cammante on Chicago's South Side. The role was obviously modeled after Al Capone. Scarface contained much more graphic screen violence than the other two films; so much so that director Howard Hughes had many battles with the Hollywood Production Code and was forced to tone down the violence.

Muni plays Cammante as a ferocious, contemptible thug, who lets his guns do the talking. Muni somehow makes Tony an appealing character, a guy who gets such a kick out of being a gangster that his enthusiasm spills off the screen (you can't help but smile at the scene where he first gets his hands on a Tommy Gun, acting as excited as a kid on Christmas morning). As far as the violence is concerned, director Howard Hawks rarely shows any on-screen killings, yet presents each murder in a manner that's just as poignant. When Boris Karloff's character, Gaffney, is gunned down in a bowling alley, we hear the shots that finish him off, but what we see is a bowling ball rolling down the lane, and a single pin toppling over, as if to signify the deed's been done.

Paul Muni gives a towering performance as the brutish and heartless Tony Camonte, making the character utterly despicable and leaving all likable traits at the door. Despite its relentless violence and perverse scenes involving Camonte and his sister (Ann Dvorak), there are some lighter scenes played to wondrous comic effect such as when Muni's secretary (Vince Barnett) fumbles with the telephone or when Muni returns to the theater after a hit to see how it ended.

Paul Muni delivers a near career best performance as Tony. He's the right amount or arrogant and his single minded goal drives his character to the edge several times. He wonderfully portrays nonchalance under fire and a conceited attitude towards the police. Despite being nominated for six Oscars, he was snubbed for this role. George Raft plays a quiet and reserved role but his coin flipping is scarily ominous. He plays a realistic character and is slightly underused in my opinion. Scarface is full of delicious imagery, like the "X" symbol that shows up whenever anyone is dead or as good as dead. Or the scene in which Camonte's men are roughing up a bootleg bartender. Hawks zeroes in not on the violence, but on the beer tap running over onto the floor. Or the scene that Truffaut immortalized, when rival gang leader Boris Karloff gets rubbed out while bowling, and a single pin remains spinning and standing for a second longer before falling.

The cinematography is notable for its 'X' motif. In many of the murder scenes, an overtly visible X is present on the screen. This takes the form of shadows, window lattices, iron railings and slithers of light but it's almost always present. It's a really interesting visual and matches the scar found on Tony's left cheek. Martin Scorsese paid homage to this idea in his Oscar winning The Departed, putting the same X on screen during his movie's death scenes. Overall the film looks very good. There are several fast paced action scenes which look expensive and the interior sets are well designed. The costumes too, look fantastic. Gangsters always look great on screen but Camonte and his cohort look incredibly well dressed. Likewise the female cast members are attired in stunning gowns and have excellent hair.

Ann Dvorak excels in the role of Tony's sister while Karen Morley is slightly more wooden, although her Poppy is merely window dressing than fully fledged character in the script. Osgood Perkins plays the downtrodden boss role very well and there's a small role for Boris Karloff.
½ November 23, 2014
Scarface has some great moments including the terrific ending, it's relevant, well-acted and has stellar direction from always great Howard Hawks, but the characters are nothing to write home about and the plot is neither memorable nor particularly entertaining.
September 29, 2014
This is the masterpiece of gangster genre, due to Howard Hughes as to Howard Hawks. (both directed in reality).
½ August 27, 2014
Muni's other great film next to "chain gang"
TheDudeLebowski65
Super Reviewer
August 19, 2014
One of the defining gangster films, this is a classic of the genre, one of the first films to really establish the gangster film and adding elements of visceral violence, which for its time was ahead of its time. Scarface is a phenomenal film, a film that is well acted, entertaining and well paced and manages to be a highly captivating film that is well worth your time if you enjoy the genre. The performances here are great and each actor brings something that elevates the film significantly. Plenty of gangster films have been released since then, but Scarface has a secured place as one of the finest examples of what a crime film should be. Simple, yet effective in its execution, this is a great film, a masterwork of cinema, one that showcases brilliant acting and storytelling that is never boring, and with that being said, it's quite impressive to see a film like this having been made during this period. The film is action packed with the right blend of drama and thrills to make it a worthwhile and memorable experience for viewers that enjoy a solidly paced gangster film. For its short run time, Scarface does a lot more than most genre films that are nearly three hours in length. This is filmmaking at its very best and it's a movie that is sure to appeal to any film buff that enjoys a well crafted picture. Scarface still holds quit well by today's standards, and it's one of the defining films that has helped shape the gangster genre.
½ August 11, 2014
The gangster film to define future gangster films, Scarface is truly an amazing film, with an incredible performance from Paul Muni and glorious violence, making this a must see for film lovers.
½ August 7, 2014
I've now finally seen the big three original gangster flicks of the early 1930s, which includes this, Edward G. Robinson in "Little Caesar" and James Cagney in "The Public Enemy." This is easily the best of the three, as well as being far superior to the gratuitously unpleasant 1983 "remake" which has little to do with this original other than the title.

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.
July 22, 2014
You really shouldn't compare it to the De Palma remake, but it still plays as like a Cliff Notes version of the remake. Still, must've been shocking for its time.
February 25, 2014
gr8 pre-code gangsta pic directed by the gr8 howard hawks
January 12, 2014
Arguably more exciting and less seedy than its 1980s remake, this has some great action scenes, moody lighting and some amusing dialogue. In barely 90mins, it gets the 'power corrupts' message over very strongly. 8.25/10
December 28, 2013
A watershed gangster film.
December 25, 2013
solid film. I was very surprised to see how many things this movie had in common with the 80's remake. While the setting is completely different some of the major plot points are the same. Also a surprising amount of political and social commentary which unfortunately at times feels a little goofy or forced. Some solid old timey gangster talk.
½ December 9, 2013
Say Hello to the Original Scarred Madman--A Monster Who Whistles Opera Arias!!
November 23, 2013
This old movie surprised by its modernity, especially in the dialogues. A story of a great ambition that leads to a tragic end but with also some moments of comedy. Truly remarkable.
October 9, 2013
Apparently the Brian de Palma version is pretty faithful to the original (a lot of the same themes and scenes were carried from this film into its remake. I was under the impression that they were more different). I watched this as part of a Coursera film class and really enjoyed it. It is pretty dark and gritty, especially for its time. They had to through in a few text cards at the beginning and a government scene in the middle to get it approved as not glorifying violence. It's incredible what Hawks did with the sound effects (no musical score) only a few years after sound entered movies. The movie is close to glorifying violence, but every time there's a violent scene it's followed by silence and a woman screaming, or a lone dog barking, or a woman crying. The scene where Tony commits an act of murder too close to him, he realizes what he's been doing and for once in the whole movie is speechless. While the protagonist of the film, he is definitely a tragic hero - a character to learn from, not to emulate.
October 2, 2013
So much better than the remake. Seriously. See this one if you care about anything other than mindless violence.
September 22, 2013
This one holds up surprisingly well
Super Reviewer
September 20, 2013
This film remains a triumph for two solid reasons: it was speaking about the life of an American gangster while said gangster was still alive, and it overcame the debilitating reach of the censorship board in Prohibition era America. Made for the sole purpose of exploiting the fame of Al Capone during his years running Chicago, its reputation at the time was that of educational entertainment for people to see the death and destruction of the mobs. The very beginning of the film starts with a disclaimer urging the public to stand against the criminals and take action for themselves. Of course this ploy was only so the film itself could get into theaters, but it does add a bit of melancholy to the ending. Instead of showing these deviants, there is a romanticization of the lead character, Tony Camonte. Though this film's descendent, of the same name, did a better job of showing the glory and unjust winnings of the mob boss, this film did not disappoint in showing the flash and pomp of being the big shot. Besides the scenes of luxurious ballrooms and fine wine being poured, there's also a quality to Tony that makes him an underdog and somewhat of a hero throughout the film. It's obvious from the beginning that Tony has little brains for the operation, but plenty of ambition, and it's that dumb luck and lack of self-awareness that leads him to win out over his employer. His own ineptitude leads him to be portrayed as brave, when really it's a case of someone going too big too soon and losing it all. What also strikes you is how it's not educational in any sense of the word. There's a henchman who is hard of hearing who ends up being the comic relief, which is very much not showing mobsters in a bad light. Besides that there is also a character study between Tony and his sister, whose relationship is oftentimes abusive. There's a bit of melodrama when it comes to their relationship and the way he treats her, but it also lends to an entertaining watch. The two of the them make the movie go out in a blaze of glory at the end and lends, again, to melancholy. The story is certainly entertaining, but how it's framed and having that historical context really makes this a solid and enjoyable watch.
September 10, 2013
I can't help feeling like this film was a missed opportunity. We catch fleeting glimpses of Tony and his sister's feisty, alienated humanity in the final scene but, because it comes so late, it feels like they're inconsistent characters rather than complex ones.

This (and the De Palma remake) could have been a modern Macbeth, but doesn't quite get there.
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