Carlito's Way - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Carlito's Way Reviews

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July 28, 2017
Brilliant crime drama of failed redemption . . .
July 19, 2017
Solid, original gangster story with some memorable characters and moments.
½ July 15, 2017
In 1975, after serving 5 years of a 30 year prison sentence, Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) is freed on a legal technicality exploited by his close friend and lawyer, Dave Kleinfeld (Sean Penn). Carlito vows to be through with his criminal activities but is persuaded to accompany his young cousin Guajiro (John Ortiz) to a drug deal held at a bar. Guajiro is betrayed and killed by his suppliers and Carlito is forced to shoot his way out. Afterwards, Carlito takes Guajiro's $30,000 from the botched deal and uses it to buy into a nightclub owned by a gambling addict named Saso (Jorge Porcel) with the intent on saving $75,000 to retire to the Caribbean. As nightclub co-owner, Carlito declines several offers for a business partnership with an obnoxious young gangster from the Bronx named Benny Blanco (John Leguizamo). Carlito also rekindles his romance with his former girlfriend Gail (Penelope Ann Miller), a ballet dancer who moonlights as a stripper. Kleinfeld develops a love interest with Benny's girlfriend, Steffie, a waitress at Carlito's nightclub. Benny's frustration with Carlito's constant rejections boils over and he confronts Carlito one night at his table. Carlito publicly humiliates Benny, who reacts by manhandling Steffie. Fueled by his now extensive use of alcohol and cocaine, Kleinfeld brazenly pulls out a gun and threatens to kill Benny, but Carlito intervenes. Despite being personally threatened by Benny himself, Carlito lets Benny go unharmed; a decision which alienates Carlito's gangster friend and personal bodyguard Pachanga (Luis Guzmán). Kleinfeld, who stole one million dollars in payoff money from his Italian mob-boss client, Anthony "Tony T" Taglialucci, is coerced into providing his yacht to help Tony T break out of the Rikers Island prison barge. Kleinfeld begs for Carlito's assistance in the prison break, and Carlito reluctantly agrees. Carlito is suddenly back in the world of violence and mistrust he is trying to get away from...

Critical response to the theatrical release was somewhat lukewarm. The film was criticized for re-treading old ground, mainly De Palma's own Scarface and The Untouchables.Roger Ebert stated in his review that the film is one of De Palma's finest with some of the best set-pieces he has done. Patrick Doyle was praised on his scoring of the film soundtrack, which was described as "elegiac" and "hauntingly beautiful," which "displays Doyle as one of the major talents of modern film scoring." Peter Travers (of Rolling Stone) criticised the film for Pacino's "Rican" accent slipping into his "Southern drawl from Scent of a Woman", "De Palma's erratic pacing and derivative shootouts" and "what might have been if Carlito's Way had forged new ground and not gone down smokin' in the shadow of Scarface." On the Siskel & Ebert show, Ebert gave the film a thumbs up while Siskel gave it a thumbs down. Owen Gleiberman (from Entertainment Weekly) described the film as "a competent and solidly unsurprising urban-underworld thriller" and is "okay entertainment," but went on to say that the plot would have worked better "as a lean and mean Miami Vice episode." A few weeks before the film's premiere, De Palma told the crew not to get their hopes up about the film's reception. He correctly predicted that Pacino, having just won an Oscar, would be criticized; Koepp, having just done Jurassic Park, would "suck"; Penn would be "brilliant" because he had not done anything for a while; and he himself, having not been forgiven for The Bonfire of the Vanities, would not quite be embraced. "Carlito's Way" premiered with an opening weekend box office taking of over $9 million. At the end of its theatrical run, the film had grossed over $36 million in the United States and $63 million worldwide. Sean Penn and Penelope Ann Miller both received Golden Globe nominations for their respective roles as Kleinfeld and Gail. The post cinematic appreciation of the film was later highlighted when the French publication Cahiers du cinéma named it as Best film of the 1990s along with The Bridges of Madison County and Goodbye South Goodbye.

With "Scarface", Brian De Palma and Al Pacino created a movie you will never forget once you have seen it. 10 years later both brought us "Carlito´s Way" that also lives and breathes in the gangster universe, but in this case set in New York/East Harlem and with the main character from Puerto Rico. De Palma is one of those directors that can really bring life to a film via his unique visual approach and character study. He knows how to handle a story, a broad character gallery, the dialogue, environments etc. In "Carlito´s Way" you get everything. Action, suspense, violence, love, redemption, revenge, honesty, deception, friendship. Al Pacino is more low key as Carlito Brigante compared to the frantic Tony Montana, but equally good. While Sean Penn steals the show as he is phenomenal as Dave Kleinfeld showing how talented he is as an actor. Penelope Ann Miller is good as Gail, but maybe not as convincing as Pacino and Penn. Carlito´s plan to redemption, to re-unite with his ex, to leave the criminal scene behind and sell cars doesn´t go all that well and his downfall starts quickly in the film. Has he been so bad in his life that he simply don´t deserve a second chance? Is it his fate that by choosing a criminal path early in life he is also marked for life as a criminal? Is he simply doomed? I love the long chase sequence at Grand Central Terminal, a true De Palma cinematic experience and I love the pool hall sequence as well. "Carlito´s Way" is stylistic, realistic and strong in my opinion. And I think the film is a bit overshadowed and sligthly forgotten. It´s a solid film and it deserves to be up there with the big ones within the genre.
July 7, 2017
Amazing, beautifully poetic Brian Depalma gangster film starring Al Pacino, terrific as Carlito Brigante and an unrecognizable, equally great Sean Penn as his womanizing, two timing coked up cockroach of a lawyer Dave Kleinfeld (a little trivia: the character of Ken Rosenberg in the Grand Theft Auto video game series was actually inspired by Kleinfeld) John Leguizamo is memorable, yet underused as Benny Blanco (did you know he was "from the Bronx"?) Penelope Ann Miller is heartbreaking as Carlito's girlfriend Gail, and quite fetching as well. She has some nice standout scenes with Pacino. Their chemistry works. Speaking of chemistry, with Scarface and Carlito's Way, Pacino/Depalma proved to be a truly winning combo. In my opinion this was Depalma's last great film. 4 stars
½ June 25, 2017
This movie was pretty good. There were some scenes, particularly the romance scenes between Carlito and Gail that went for way too long. Otherwise it was a great concept, someone who tries so hard to leave the crime life, but he didn't choose the crime life. The crime life chose him. Great Pacino flick!
April 2, 2017
Grade - A-
DePalma and Pacino's 2nd Gangster film is excellent filmmaking, with brilliant performances and a thrilling finale to overcome its unfocused first act.
April 1, 2017
An unintentional parody of Scarface.
February 26, 2017
One of Al Pacinos finest. Amazing gripping film from start to finish.
½ February 22, 2017
This is easily one of my favorite Brian De Palma films and there are plenty of reasons why. Firstly the cast is great who all act extremely well, the soundtrack is incredible with a score that is equally as good, it is well shot, it looks great, the violence is handled with maturity, the train station scene is tense and has solid action, I like the script and the plot is equally engrossing and entertaining. Only problems (which are quite frankly minor) are that I don't like the fact it starts how it ends and it does tread some old ground.
September 21, 2016
One of Pacino's best.
August 25, 2016
one of the best crime movies ever.
August 17, 2016
If it hadn't been for the box set of gangster films that my father lent to me, I would never have heard of or watched Carlito's Way. It seems to be a relatively underrated film and I can see why. There aren't any killer lines or iconic scenes, but there's a decent story and impeccable acting. Obviously Pacino's presence owns the screen, but Sean Penn shows notable range as the weaselly lawyer Kleinfeld and as does Viggo Mortensen as the once suave gangster now paraplegic. Mortensen's ability to hold his own with Pacino in the club scene is awesome. To date, this one is my favourite gangster film and one I'd watch again.
½ August 16, 2016
This has to be the worst movie I've seen this year thus far. How it entailed 140mins I can't quite fathom. For it to then end as 'corny' as the storyline and some of the overplayed acting!! How in gods name do you end a movie in the manner in which this ended and rate it so highly!! I have lost faith in the critics of today! To rate this so highly!!! Really regretted watching this pile of garbage!
June 16, 2016
It may be very Oscar-baity, but let's face it, we're all fish in the same pond, and the bait is delicious. This may not be De Palma and Pacino's best meet up, but with stand out characters and unexpected turns, it's a welcome companion. B+.
June 3, 2016
I absolutely love this film and consider it a modern classic. It received mixed reviews back when it was first released, although I loved the film immediately upon seeing it in the theater. And long before this film came out, I was a huge fan of director Brian De Palma, but "Carlito's Way" has since rightfully gained a significant following. Much of the criticism of the film when it was initially released was that the film was too much of De Palma and star Al Pacino rehashing old material (i.e. this being a rehash of their earlier collaboration on "Scarface"), but this film is so much more and is a far more character driven of piece than "Scarface" ever was. Set in a disco era 1970s NYC, Pacino plays an Latino ganster recently released from prison on a technicality by his sleazy lawyer, a brilliant and nearly unrecognizable Sean Penn who hadn't acted in anything for quite a while up until this film. Carlito wants to go straight, but the street keeps sucking him back in. Outside of the superficial elements that De Palma is directing and Pacino is playing a Latino gangster, this film has nothing similar to "Scarface." Even if the film were to be considered a spiritual sequel to "Scarface" (or a retread if you're feeling more negative) I don't think that's a credible reason to dismiss this film. I always appreciated Martin Scorcesse's defense of "Casino" being too similar to "Goodfellas" when he pointed out that John Ford (my all-time favorite American film director) essentially made the same movie three times over again with his Cavalry Trilogy (with nearly the same cast and story each time). But more specifically to the attributes of "Calito's Way." Pacino actually tones his performance down quite a bit for Carlito. Most of his film since "Scent of a Woman" involve Pacino constantly being at the top of his lungs. Pacino certainly does have his big moments here too, but it's his quite ones that are most memorable. Most of those quiet moments involve scenes with love interest Gail, played by Penelope Ann Miller. I remember when I originally watched this film I wasn't sure if Miller was cast correctly, but I've come to decide she was perfectly cast. She and Pacino are not a typical match as an onscreen couple, but their characters are a mismatch as well, which is what makes it so effective. Miller spent most of her career at this time doing light comedy, but she gives a strong moving performance as Carilo's long suffering girlfriend. The film is also filled with memorable supporting performances, ranging from Luis Guzmán as Carlito's henchman Pachanga, to James Rebhorn as the DA out to get Carlio, to Adrian Pasdar, Richard Foronjy, and Frank Minucci as Italian mafia figures, to a very memorable John Leguizamo as Benny Blanco from the Bronx. One of my own personal favorite movie games going back to my video store clerk days was "Best One Scene Performances" and this film contains on of those on my list. It's the scene where Lalin (Viggo Mortensen before he was famous) meets with Carlito in the club and is wearing a wire for the DA. Mortensen is such a weasley and pathetic character, but Mortensen somehow manages to almost generate sympathy for his awful character. It's a performance on the level of Peter Lorre in "M," where his child murder character is so sincere that he almost generates sympathy before the group about to kill him for his crimes. Not quite as great, but nearly as good is the scene where Tony Taglialucci meets the Sean Penn's character on Ryder's Island and just commands the screen in bullying Penn. These are all amazing elements of the film that all add up to making it a classic, but I haven't even mentioned the beautiful and tragic score by Patrick Doyle, or the gorgeous production design by the always great Richard Sylbert, or the elegant photography by Stephen H. Burum. But a majority of this films success lies with director Brian De Palma. I put this film among De Palma's best films, right alongside "Blow Out" or "The Untouchables." De Palma is known for his action/suspense set pieces and he delivers a number of such scenes in this film, but the chase scene at the end of the film that culminates at Grand Centra Station is a classic. However, De Palma continues to demonstrative his mastery of the camera even in the more quite of moments, such as Carlito standing in the rain waiting for Gai, or elegantly moody black and white opening, are all undeniably De Palma in terms visual style. What makes Brian De Palma one of my favorite filmmakers is that he is a true cinema-guy. His films are done in such a way that they could not be told in any other medium. Not a book, not a TV show, not a comic book. The way he tells a story could only be told on film. Although based on a book, the book would not be the same full sensory experience that De Palma brought to the screen here with period music, arresting visuals and terrific suspense set pieces. Overall, this film is absolutely brilliant and deserves to be recognized as such. In doing some reading on this film, I was very pleased to read that the French publication Cahiers du cinéma named "Carlio's Way" as Best film of the 1990s.
Super Reviewer
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.
May 22, 2016
Just watched it after so many years and in was still very enjoyable. Great story and wonderful performances from everyone in the film. 5/5
March 19, 2016
Pacino and Penn actually complemented each others performance, often distracted by Miller's character's side story.
March 16, 2016
One of my favorite movies of all time!
February 17, 2016
If you like Scarface, then you will really enjoy this film. It has PAcino as an experienced criminal that is begrudgingly dragged back into the criminal life he swore he has left behind - with dire consequences, Pacino is a reformed man and is focused on love and living a clean life. Unfortunately, fate is beyond any man's control.
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