My Feature Film Review for Scarface

I was drawn to this film when I was 12 or 13. One day, I went to Blockbuster, looking to rent some mindless action film for a fun night with my friends. There, I met an employee, who helped me find a movie  to rent (The Scorpion King by the way). Just as I was about to go, he told me something that I will never forget. “When you”re older, watch this movie called Scarface”. He showed me the box, with that iconic cover. 2 weeks later, I bought the movie on DVD.

Scarface is a gangster film about Tony Montana (Al Pacino), a Cuban refugee who has just arrived in 1980’s Miami. The film is about his rise and fall as a cocaine lord.

Scarface is both a narrative and experience driven film. The story is only about the main character and his story of reaching to the top Miami’s drug industry. However, the structure of the script focus’ on the specific events that get Tony to the top, and what eventually lead to his fall. The structure of Scarface itself is a loose three act structure. However, the main emphasis of the story is the rise and the fall of Tony Montana. The film almost feels like two separate films because of this. (By the way, I feel the point where the story switches to the fall is that great montage of Tony getting married and enjoying his wealth.)

The story also focus’ mainly on the present. Only the very beginning takes time to introduce Tony’s back story. It’s the scene where Tony is being interviewed. There we learn that he has some kind of criminal past, that he has no family, and that he hates Cuba and loves America. This is not even reliable information because we find out later that he does have a mother and a sister, both living in Miami. A detailed back story was not necessary to introduce Tony in Scarface, because when we begin to see and hear Tony, then we begin to really understand who he is.

The dialogue in Scarface is vital to the story. It’s the main way that Tony express’ himself. All of his intentions, desires, and goals are all honestly said by Tony. This really helps to show the type of character he is. He is expressive, honest, headstrong, driven, and confident. The scene that best shows this is when Tony talks his best friend Manny, just after they have met a powerful drug dealer named Lopez. Tony describes Lopez as being “soft” and that he wants “the world, and everything in it.” He hides very few things from the others characters and from us. Like the character of Sosa says “There’s now lying in you, Tony.”

Just like the dialouge, Tony’s character behavior and actions are very direct and specific for his character. When Lopez betrays him, Tony kills him, kills the crooked cop (Bernstein) who was with Lopez, then goes upstairs, and takes Lopez’s woman, Elvria, to be his own. There is only one part where Tony’s character isn’t as direct. That is with his sister, Gina. For Tony, Gina is everything that he isn’t. Innocent, sweet, caring, happy. He becomes overprotective of her, extremely overprotective. Tony doesn’t say anything about this for most of the film, but at the end of the film, what he does do is kill his best friend Manny. Manny married his sister in secret. My feeling is that Tony didn’t want her to become like himself, and to become corrupted like like he was. This relationship is the best example of action over dialogue in Scarface. We are not ever directly told about why Tony was so crazy about Gina. We just see that he was.

For me, a storytelling lesson that I learned was to put your protagonist under pressure. Not only can you make a very entertaining scene, but it is a great way to create and to further develop a character. The scene in Scarface that taught me this is when Tony is with fellow drug businessman Omar, in Bolivia. There, they meet drug lord, Sosa. Sosa finds out that Omar used to be a police informant and kills him in front of Tony. This is a big moment for Tony, because Sosa basically asks him “How can I trust you?”  Tony passionately replies “I have two things in this world, my word and balls, and I don’t break them for nobody!” Tony gives Sosa a speech that convinces him that he is honest, trustworthy, passionate, and a great partner for business. This is a scene where Tony could have also gotten killed, or could have at least lost lots of his credibility, but by being as honest and as bold as he was, Tony has now developed a relationship with a drug lord that will help him become the most powerful cocaine dealer in Miami.

And now finally, the ending. Whenever I think about the ending of this film, I always think, what else could have happened? The lifestyle that Tony wanted to live, lead to his demise. He destroyed everything around him, so it is only fitting that he gets destroyed himself.

I hope that you enjoyed my review for Scarface.

(PS. Im sorry that I wrote so much about this film. Its one of my absolute favorites.)