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.
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.
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.