Carlito's Way

Critics Consensus

Carlito's Way reunites De Palma and Pacino for a more wistful take on the crime epic, delivering a stylish thriller with a beating heart beneath its pyrotechnic performances and set pieces.

81%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 48

91%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 124,646

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Movie Info

A free man after years in prison, Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) intends to give up his criminal ways, but it's not long before the ex-con is sucked back into the New York City underworld. Reconnecting with his dancer girlfriend, Gail (Penelope Ann Miller), Carlito gets entangled in the shady dealings of his friend Dave Kleinfeld (Sean Penn), who also serves as his lawyer. When Carlito and Kleinfeld run afoul of shifty gangster Benny Blanco (John Alberto Leguizamo), it sets them on a dangerous path.

Cast & Crew

Al Pacino
Carlito Brigante
Sean Penn
David Kleinfeld
John Leguizamo
Benny Blanco
James Rebhorn
Dist. Atty. Norwalk
Joseph Siravo
Vincent 'Vinnie' Taglialucci
Richard Foronjy
Pete Amadesso
Edwin Torres
Writer (Novel)
David Koepp
Screenwriter
Ortwin Freyermuth
Executive Producer
Louis A. Stroller
Executive Producer
Patrick Doyle
Original Music
Stephen H. Burum
Cinematographer
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News & Interviews for Carlito's Way

Critic Reviews for Carlito's Way

All Critics (48) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (39) | Rotten (9)

  • Penn, in curled hair and wire-rims, makes a brilliant, slippery high-end shyster; his modulated hysteria is amazing. So is Brian De Palma's direction.

    March 23, 2015 | Full Review…
  • Pacino looks every inch a movie star, and De Palma provides a timely reminder of just how impoverished the Hollywood lexicon has become since the glory days of the '70s.

    June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • "Carlito's Way" is best watched as lively, colorful posturing and as a fine demonstration of this director's bravura visual style.

    May 20, 2003 | Rating: 3/5
  • Quote not available.

    May 12, 2001 | Rating: 1/4
  • Quote not available.

    January 1, 2000 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Pacino has his moments but for the most part he's surprisingly underwhelming. He's a great actor but even I can do a better Puerto Rican accent.

    January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Carlito's Way

  • May 27, 2016
    I can't believe it took me until just recently to see this film. Absolutely brilliant performances from all of the main character actors (Pacino, Penn, and Miller). Great adapted screenplay from David Koepp (which should be expected as he rarely misses). You root and root for Pacino's character to maintain the straight and narrow after being released from prison only to see him dragged further and further back to a life of crime. Definitely see this film.
    Patrick W Super Reviewer
  • Mar 22, 2015
    De Palma's electric set pieces are peppered throughout a faltered narrative, but Pacino and Penn hold it all together exceptionally well.
    Kase V Super Reviewer
  • Mar 21, 2014
    To clarify in one sentence - it's Scarface with emotion: A character study into a man who wishes to be better than he knows he is. Although it emphasizes Pacino and Penn's charisma, as well as DePalma's elegant visual perception, the plot - leading up to the sensational climax - is frail, with drained morals and an unrealized sense of melodrama. However, it is still worth a watch, as what is probably Brian DePalma's last great work.
    Bryce I Super Reviewer
  • Dec 01, 2013
    Al Pacino and Brian De Palma collaboration brought one of the most iconic gangster to film with "Scarface". A film that would define both of their careers making "Carlito's Way" a unique enigma. While both are about man wanting to be better then he is both are the polar opposite in terms of tone, atmosphere, and pacing. In the end "Carlito's Way" surpassed "Scarface", but neither is it inferior in any noticeable way. Carlito's Way is about a Puerto Rican former convict, just released from prison, pledging to stay away from drugs and violence despite the pressure around him and lead on to a better life outside of N.Y.C.. Moving along at a slow pace "Carlito's Way" tells an engrossing story. Allowing enough time to develop every major player that come into play in the story. Getting across every character history with each other, how each one lives, and interweaving each conflict into a single narrative that never becomes lost among many of its characters. Filled with a wide cast they never undermined our main character, but instead build upon Carlito's character who doesn't follow a traditional narrative. What we don't see is the rise of Carlito to power, but instead we do see is the traditional fall. What makes this fall different is fully understanding Carlito's world how he sees it and how he goes against the image given to him. Yes we know the outcome of Carlito's life in the beginning of the film which in no way detracts from it story. It's a quite a feat to make a thrilling climax when the outcome has already been shown. It seems the plot would have gotten everything right if it weren't for stock characters. Sure the stock characters are well developed from the drug addicted best friend, crooked cops, a promising new young criminal, and many more unfortunately play out like a cliche. At its heart "Carlito's Way" story fits B movie territory where's it biggest strength lies using it towards its strength and not so much as a concealing weakness. It might be retreading familiar ground with stock characters helping you connect the dot faster than the plotline, but getting to the already known destination is an engaging character piece. Director Brian De Palma acknowledges that "Carlito's Way" is one giant slice of cheese with style. He pushes every motion and emotion to operatic proportions, ringing every ounce of drama. With its impeccable compositions, precise camera work, glacial tracking shots, baroque tone, sublime action sequences, and flamboyant acting, this is a film in love with its own form. Al Pacino's performance as Carlito is the heart of the movie. Compelling, tough, and intelligent from years of dope dealing and soaking up the gang-land atmosphere around him. Framed by a jet black beard, Pacino spends the film always dressed in black, navigating his death dream like a fallen angel. Pacino spends the film alternating between a stance of fast-talking macho posturing and one of melancholic regret. He wears the face of a corpse, of defeat and acceptance, his flashes of confidence a hip old mask which doesn't know if its going or staying. Then there's Sean Penn as Kleinfeld, a scheming, vain little man who starts off seemingly as legitimate as a lawyer of criminals, but as we soon learn, he has slipped into a world that he has no place to belong in. Kleinfeld, with his balding, curly hair and nervy, cranked voice. However, when the viewer looks into his eyes, both terrified and ravenous, one can understand the pathway to excess that most conventional crime movies take for granted. Carlito's Way is a slow and engrossing character driven crime drama that will keep you watching even though you know the fate of the main character in the beginning of the film. Well directed and well acted Carlito's Way will absorb you into its world and characters all the way through the end.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer

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