Ambition as a Recipe for Self-Destruction

Brian De Palma, 1983

We all have ambition. (Well, maybe some of us don't, but most of us do.) It is so powerful that it can either make or break us. In Brian De Palma's crime thriller, Scarface, he shows us how ambition can lead to self-destruction.

Tony Montana (played by Al Pacino) is a Cuban refugee who came to America with hopes of having a better life (lots of money to be exact). Along with his buddy, Manny Ribera (Steven Bauer), Tony starts climbing the drug-dealing ladder by being "a help" to a big-time coke dealer (Robert Loggia). Tony soon becomes the "teacher's pet," being trusted with major drug deals. Tony happy? Not yet. He wants to have the world and Elvira Hancock (Michelle Pfeiffer), his boss's woman. So there. We watch as Tony's ambition turns into greed, which eventually leads to a nasty denouement.

Director Brian De Palma is mostly known for his Hitchcockian thrillers (e.g., Sisters, Carrie, Blow Out, Dressed to Kill). In this film, De Palma shows us his versatility in terms of storytelling, focusing more on the antihero's own horrors. Oliver Stone's screenplay is well-tuned with the plot's ambiance, juxtaposing Tony's power with his weakness.

L-R: Mastrantonio as Gina. Pacino as Tony.

The cast, headed by Pacino, is great. Tony Montana is not Pacino's (very) best performance — check him out as Michael Corleone before you get mad at me — but it's definitely one of his finest roles. As usual, he is charming. The accent is a bit flawed but his delivery is right on. The performance that really got me is that of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Gina (Tony's baby sis). It's astounding to see how Gina becomes Tony's femme fatale who leads him to further destruction.

Drenched in greed and madness.

John A. Alonzo (the "visualist" of Chinatown) did a nice job with the cinematography, there were quite a lot of awesome frames in the film, most particularly the long shot of Tony alone in his bathtub. Giorgio Moroder's music is good. The music during the title sequence has that shivering effect in it.

A rags to riches story set in a downward spiral backdrop, Scarface is one of the few good movies of the '80s (there's just a lot of good *bad* movies from this era). You wanna know how to destroy yourself? You take it from Tony Montana and his little friend.

Trailer for Scarface:

DISCLAIMER: No copyright infringement intended. I don't own or claim to own any of the photos used.

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