Sign up for the
and get $50 off Final Draft 12
By Randal Stevens · April 26, 2010
The other day I was oh-so-joyously awaiting the elevator to take me to work when a man exited the stairwell wearing a black, tall-tee imprinted with a large mug of Tony “Scarface” Montana. There was nothing unusual about this man or his shirt – it had the faux-graffiti look that seemed to be standard in my Chelsea neighborhood – and were it any other day, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But seeing as I was trying to think of a blog topic, I saw this as a sign from The Almighty (or from my ego) that I should go ahead and air out my grievances about the Brian De Palma film.
Don’t get me wrong, I like Scarface; I own Two-Disc Anniversary Edition and I’ve watched the film multiple times. I’ll quote Tony with a poor Cuban accent along with everyone else (“say helluh to muh littuh frenh!”) and I had fun pointing all the film’s references upon playing through Grand Theft Auto IV when it was first released. I like Scarface. I think it’s a good movie. But that’s all that I think it is. I don’t think it’s groundbreaking, revolutionary, or necessarily anything worth including in the history books when all is said and done. And yet, in the neighborhood in which I work – indeed, seemingly within all urban environments – Scarface is sort of the pinnacle of cinematic achievement. Now, I don’t want to sound like the ignorant suburban white dude, sipping my PBR and sacrificing my pea coat collection upon the altar of Paul Haggis’ Crash; I understand why the film appeals to those who call the inner-city home. In Tony Montana, urban dwellers see a badass motherfucker who overcame the bounds of racial, political and economic ostracism to rule the world around him. That I understand. Hell, even affluent white people dream about taking over their respective world.
But it seems like most who idolize Tony Montana either turn the film off before the last 15 minutes or have selective memory when it comes to recalling it. Sure, Tony has risen to the top of the heap, but by the time the film ends, he’s murdered his best friend, indirectly caused the death of his sister, become addicted to coke, pissed off every ally he ever had and been pumped full of more bullets than Amadou Diallo. In Act III of Scarface, Tony doesn’t go time at the top of his game, Tony goes down when he’s at his absolute lowest point and he goes down in fucking flames. As the camera cranes out on that final shot, with Tony’s limp body tainting his indoor fountain with his blood, is it lost on some people that the phrase “The World Is Yours” is a double-edged sword?
For some, I suppose the fall from the top is preferable to never even being close to it – better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all, as they say. But even if we remove ourselves from urban idolizing, there’s still a general ignorance when it comes to how great Scarface isn’t. As of this writing, IMDB.com the film is ranked #162 on its top #250. Obviously, IMDB users decide on the ranking in the top #250 and that means people who like Scarface like it enough to rank it above Dog Day Afternoon (166), which features a better performance from Al Pacino; Casino (175), which is a better gangster film; The Wild Bunch (183), which is much more awesomely violent; and Bonnie and Clyde (218), which was a much more revolutionary gangster film at the time of its release. Somehow Carlito’s Way, which is a better De Palma film, in my opinion, is no where to be seen on this list and will often be seen ranked below Scarface on “Best Gangster Film” lists.
Retrospect, in my opinion, should lessen this film’s impact, especially considering that seven years later Martin Scorsese would direct the greatest American film in history, Goodfellas (once again, a better gangster film, though one that gets much deserved recognition). But perhaps I’m giving Scarface’s reputation way too much credit and it’s not actually remembered as fondly these days as I assume it is. It’s very possible that I don’t know what I’m talking about, but you’ll have to forgive me – I drank too much PBR trying to drown my sorrows after watching Crash for the thirteenth time.