NEVER SEEN IT: Scarface (1983)

scarface poster

BY AMBER KELLY-ANDERSON

Date released: December 9, 1983

Date watched: June 25, 2013

Why now? Scarface is one of those movies that is so ingrained in our pop culture dialogue that for some reason I thought I had watched it. Like I understand references from it, I know the story–heck, I can even describe scenes from it. Yet, I realized I had not actually watched it. The time has come, the walrus said.

Why not then? When it came out I was still in the G-rating demographic. As noted above, I thought I had seen it, so when it would play on cable or someone would ask to watch it, I was like, “Well I’ve seen that. I don’t remember it that well so I must not have liked it.” No, you dork! You don’t remember it because you’ve never actually watched it. Stop living a lie!

Expectations:

  • Michelle Pfeiffer in sleek chic and a geometric haircut.
  • Al Pacino with a borderline offensive Cuban accent yelling, “Say hello to my little friend!”
  • Bullet showers.
  • Over the top violence.
  • Free-flying use of the F-word.
  • Cocaine!

What I actually got:

  • Michelle Pfeiffer sizzling as the bored Elvira in sleek chic and a geometric haircut. It reminded me how much I love her.
  • Al Pacino in one of my new favorite performances. He loves to chew scenery–that’s a given. But seeing him in this explosive role was exciting and a refresher as to why in the 70s and 80s he was at the top of his game. Tony Montana is the type of character written to be played with Pacino’s wild abandon. In some ways, Montana feels like Pacino’s attempt to play a foil to the gangster role that made him famous: The Godfather’s Michael Corleone.
  • Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Gina, Tony’s sister whom, like the 1932 original Scarface, he has complicated feelings for. Pfeiffer is always the lady I had connected with this version, but that does a disservice to Mastrantonio’s equally impressive work.
  • A strong supporting cast who facilitates the film’s many shades of corruption.
  • A gangster movie filled with kinetic energy. Part of the reason I thought I’d seen this movie is because so many of the elements that make it great–the pacing, the performances, Oliver Stone’s relentless script, Brian De Palma’s unapologetic directing–are present in films that came after.
  • Showers of bullets and the f-word. And cocaine.

One night-in stand or second date potential?

Absolutely. I feel like I need to watch this again with someone else so we can enjoy the ride together.

amberAmber Kelly-Anderson is a Texas-based writer and literature professor harbouring a long-standing infatuation with film. Her lifelong missions are to Save Ferris and voice a Pixar character.

Read more of Amber’s posts.

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