5 Reasons Why Scarface Is A Masterpiece That Shouldn’t Be Remade (Again)

Some classic films should be left alone, and Scarface is one of them,


With the Coen Brothers having written a script for a new Scarface movie, some people – including myself – are rightly worried about the thought of remaking one of the greatest films of all time.

Of course, the Coens are some of the most intelligent filmmakers around, and have a successful track record of rebooting classics – their take on much-loved western True Grit was nominated for 10 Academy Awards in 2010 – so there is potentially no need to panic.

The film will also be directed by Luca Guadagnino, one of the most in-demand directors in the game after his work on Call Me By Your Name earned him high praise.

And, on top of this, the 1983 Brian De Palma-directed Scarface was obviously a remake itself, making it slightly rich to complain about it being reimagined once again.

Yet, despite the quality of the filmmakers involved, and despite the hypocrisy of worrying about a remake being remade, concerns over these developments are surely legitimate. This is because De Palma’s Scarface is, simply put, a masterpiece. How can you improve on perfection? Spoiler alert: you can’t.

This is the greatest gangster movie of all time, and it should really be left alone. Here are five reasons why.


1. There’s Nothing ‘Gangster’ About Becoming Gangster

So often the ‘gangster’ lifestyle is painted as almost desirable. There are guns, money, women. With the snap of a finger you can get what you want, when you want. Wearing expensive suits and drinking glasses of the finest whiskey, mobsters run the show and look suave doing it. There’s a reason lads at universities around the globe drape their walls with posters of Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs.

What makes 1983’s Scarface so effective, though, is that it highlights the harsh reality of this world that’s often deemed so cool. De Palma’s stinging critique of gangsterism and the greed that fuels it makes it one of the most powerful films in recent decades.

Rather than framing Al Pacino’s lead character Tony Montana as some sort of desirable demi-god, Scarface shines a light on the detrimental impact that an obsession with power and money can do to an individual – especially one who so willingly ditches their moral code to get to positions of influence.

During his pursuit of power, Tony does whatever it takes to climb through the ranks. Motivated solely by prestige and prosperity, he embraces whatever is asked of him, even if that means killing, stealing and sacrificing his loyalty to his loved ones. Desperate for validation, Tony loses what it means to be himself, consumed by the cruel and merciless realm he finds himself in.

By the final act of the movie, he has it all – a nice house, the girl of his dreams, power and control – but Tony’s still not happy. He still wants more. Selfishness has consumed him, and has failed to bring him the inner peace he believed it would.

As he sits in his massive mansion, surrounded by all the riches of the world, he is still pushing to grow his wealth and his influence, and keeps pushing until it all falls apart in spectacular, bloodsoaked fashion. His wife leaves him, his mother has disowned him, and he has no friends left to look out for him – leaving him to die alone, with his dignity very much in tatters.

It is a damning message on the damaging influence of greed and the unrelenting, immoral business of gangsterism that it fuels.


2. It Explores The Journey Of The Outsider


As well as a critique on the world of crime, Scarface also provides a thought-provoking look at the journey of the outsider, those who society tries to keep from joining the privilege of the upper classes.

Coming to the US as a refugee from Cuba, Tony is treated as an outsider from the off. He is interrogated by several immigration officers when he first enters the country, being questioned on everything from where he learned English to where he got his scars.

Tony comes to the US in search of the American Dream, and quickly realises it’s a fantasy for many who make the trip to the world’s leading superpower – especially if you fit a certain description. Pursuing the goal of making money, getting a wife and living happily with his family, it soon becomes clear this will not become Tony’s reality without a fight.

Instead, he is forced into a cramped, noisy camp with what feels like no hope of escape. Once he finally gets out, he’s made to work long hours in poor conditions and in a job he hates – earning next to no money and with little in the way of prospects.

Determined to break his way into the in crowd, Tony feels there is no choice but to take drastic measures to keep his American Dream alive. It’s an excellent character study from De Palma and screenwriter Oliver Stone, delving into how those cast out and prevented from accessing real opportunities in life may find themselves in desperate situations to try and improve their lives.


3. It’s A Very Fun Film

Say hello to my little friend from Scarface

Although it tackles some serious issues, and refuses to depict its protagonist as a hero worthy of support, Scarface is still an enjoyable, and often outright fun, gangster film.

The script from Stone is consistently sharp and regularly amusing – giving the audience some genuine laughs. Tony may never be a guy that the viewer is meant to root for, but Stone makes sure they at least establish some kind of fondness for him through his quick wit and cutting sense of humour.

Several scenes, including one in which Tony is rather unsuccessfully taught to pick up girls by his best bud Manny, lead to some classic moments and delightful lines of dialogue. Even the more serious sequences, such as the aforementioned interrogation scene, have entertaining elements, as Tony runs rings around the stupidity of the officers’ questions with enjoyable ease.

The violence is used sparingly but effectively, too. There is a reason the line “Say hello to my little friend” is so well ingrained in popular culture; Tony’s last stand is an excellently choreographed action sequence involving some of the most memorably mad dialogue witnessed on screen. It is a sad and pathetic end for Pacino’s character, but a truly gripping final act in terms of entertainment value.


4. It Features Al Pacino At His Absolute Best

Scarface 80s movie

Pacino is arguably one of the most influential actors in Hollywood history, starring in countless iconic blockbusters and helping to define an entire genre of on-screen storytelling, and he is at his peak in Scarface.

From having to display utter helplessness as he is forced to watch his friend being dismantled by a chainsaw in the early stages of the film, to becoming an arrogant, self-centred and sociopathic control freak by the end of it, Pacino is tasked with an incredibly complex and layered role – and he masters it at every turn.

Tony is such a complicated figure, at certain times charming and alluring, at others utterly detestable and devoid of humanity, yet Pacino never puts a foot wrong. How he failed to receive so much as an Oscar nomination for the role is baffling – he should have won the thing.


5. It’s A Beautiful Film

Al Pacino in Scarface
Source: Capital Pictures

For all the violence, deceit and mental disintegration that occurs in Scarface, the story is told using utterly gorgeous, stylistic visuals. From the extravagant set designs to the vibrant colours of the Miami coastline, this is a fine feat of filmmaking.

Each setting is immaculately constructed, with set designer Bruce Weintraub making the most of the eccentricity of its characters to create some truly unique scenery. Be it Tony’s ridiculous palace with a swimming pool in the middle of his living room or each mobster’s wildly imposing and over-indulgent mansion, every setting is deliciously playful and full of personality.

The location of Miami is also utilised to impressive effect, with cinematographer John A. Alonzo establishing a glorious and compelling colour palette. The vibrancy of the visuals powerfully contrasts with the harsh reality of the events on screen, creating a fascinating juxtaposition between what is promised from the heady heights of a gangster’s paradise and what it often turns out to be in reality.

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