Carlito's Way Reviews
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.
DePalma and Pacino's 2nd Gangster film is excellent filmmaking, with brilliant performances and a thrilling finale to overcome its unfocused first act.
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.