Both Brian De Palma and Oliver Stone are brilliant filmmakers, but with Scarface their collaboration resulted within a masterpiece.
Tony Montana is a Cuban exile who arrives in Miami in search of fortune in the US. He and his buddy Manny (Steven Bauer) have little interest in cleaning dishes within a fastfood van, so jump at the chance to carry out a drug handover for Miami mobster Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia). Fairly soon they’re on Frank’s payroll, and Tony has noticed the opportunity to create quite a bit additional money than Frank is prepared to threat, by trafficking drugs from Bolivia below the noses of your neighborhood druglords.
Scarface is extended and sprawling, but Oliver Stone’s screenplay gives small opportunity for subtlety or deep insight. Tony Montana is brought vividly to life by Pacino whose Cuban accent is so thick it is occasionally difficult to produce out what’s he’s saying, but who provides the role a level of intensity second only to his overall performance in Dog Day Afternoon. Regardless of whether he’s attempting to smarm his way past US immigration, sweet-talk Frank’s icy mistress Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer) or blowing seven shades of shit out his enemies inside a cocaine-fuelled rage, its hard to take your eyes off Pacino, and full marks to Bauer for sharing countless scenes and not being acted off the screen.
De Palma and Stone take a very linear approach the material, charting Tony’s accession by way of the Miami underworld, from his usurping of Frank as cocaine king for the inevitable downfall that his paranoid, coke-induced mania brings. Along the way we’ve a check list of bloody delights – the infamous chainsaw sequence, F. Murray Abraham’s enforcer acquiring hung from a helicopter, numerous stabbings, garottings and shootings, along with the near-operatic climax in which Tony faces down an army of Bolivian gunmen in his own residence. Classic lines come thick and fast – “This town’s like an awesome huge pussy just waiting to acquire fucked!”, “Say hello my tiny friend!” – although the lavish production style, Georgio Moroder’s synth score and also the 80s fashions offer a suitably gaudy period really feel.