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Scarface 4K UHD/Blu-ray review: Dir. Brian De Palma (1983)

An undeniable cinematic classic, Scarface is probably one of those that you know scenes from without even realising. It’s in the fabric of filmmaking in both terms of influence and impact – not forgetting that Michael Bolton homage – and while it’s been a while since I’ve seen it start to finish, this new Scarface 4K UHD Gold Edition release, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment, felt like the perfect time for a re-visit and it never disappoints.

One of the keys to its success is the non-flinching approach to the brutal, gritty reality we’re thrown into, where death and drugs go hand-in-hand and power is the only thing worth holding onto for our lead Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino with a genre-defining performance. Director Brian De Palma, with a screenplay from Oliver Stone who was struggling with his own cocaine addiction at the time of writing it, brings us a sprawling epic that’ll stay with you in every format, and this new 4K UHD is also very welcome!

Beginning in 1980, we’re given a little history lesson which comments on Cuba’s Castro throwing people out of his country, due to political and ruling reasons. Leaving Mariel Harbour, thousands of people headed towards the United States in search of a new life and the old ‘American Dream’. Amongst the people was one Tony Montana, a man who would give you his word if you were on his side but also wouldn’t fuck about if you double-cross him. Eager to move forward in life, to find a purpose for his existence, he ends up in Miami as a career criminal and before long, wealth, power and everything he wants starts coming his way but, of course, with that… also comes obsession and paranoia, especially when you’re fuelled by cocaine.

While Scarface is an ensemble character piece, it’s Al Pacino’s breathtaking, committed and wonderfully crazy depiction of Montana that rules the roost. Fresh off the back of his The Godfather prowess, plus the likes of Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico, Pacino is Scarface, he is Montana, he’s the pure, unadulterated spirit and passion of his character and it’s an unforgettable creation. While obviously packed full of self-confidence, Montana also has an ‘out of control’ edge in his eyes and while in the early days he controls it, to a certain degree, as times change, his power grows and then he starts to lose it and some measured forms of chaos begin to reign. It’s absolutely fascinating.

Scarface is also packed full of intelligent camera work that begins close-up and focused on our lead, all by himself and willing to do anything to get some success, but as his wealth grows, the camera continues to pan back, showing the situations and eventually revealing that while he might be successful, he’s forced others away so many times that he’s out there on his own. It’s also scored by the legendary Giorgio Moroder, which spans all generations musically but somehow keeps the the film in its own era but also timeless. For me, the only thing that dates this type of classic is the usual issues (of the time), things like those ‘edge of frame’ characters, who over-act plus the sound effects, which were obviously made before they started making them more ‘real’, with a great example of the latter seen in the (also) Pacino-starring Heat from Michael Mann in 1995.

Alongside Pacino, you’ve got top characters and talents in the shape of Steven Bauer as Manny Ribera, the only true Cuban in the cast, Michelle Pfeiffer as Elvira Hancock, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Gina Montana, Robert Loggia as Frank Lopez, Paul Shenar as Alejandro Sosa, Míriam Colón as Mama Montana and F. Murray Abraham as Omar. The standout performances come from an then-unknown Pfeiffer, who’s on fire and full of that controlled ferocity we all know so well, Bauer as his best wingman and even a young Mastrantonio, who while occasionally a little over-hysterical (again, of the era), she’s pure feeling and important to everything.

Scarface is still a genre-shaping masterpiece, showing us the complete rise and fall of an iconic character, as we’re dragged inside of the world of Tony Montana. Captivating from the off, you can’t take your eyes off events and as the pressure cooker builds, the arguments get more vicious, Tony gets crazier, and we head into the final third which is a a crescendo of excess, courageously shot with a clever use of scenes and smart reveals. Powerful. Intense. Epic. This World is Yours.

Scarface 4K UHD and Blu-ray is available now, extras are listed just below:  https://amzn.to/31ZaNPC

There’s also this awesome Scarface Special Edition with Statue, available exclusively from Amazon, which is a “The World is Yours” Collectible Statue, a limited individually-numbered replica of one of the most iconic props from the film: https://amzn.to/2AJ8PqJ

 

  • Scarface: 35th Anniversary Reunion
  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Scarface Phenomenon – This documentary presents Scarface as a unique phenomenon in cinema history.  It explores how a film plagued by controversy leading up to its release has become a Hollywood classic, influencing a whole new generation of filmmakers and leaving a lasting imprint on popular culture.
  • The World of Tony Montana – Experience the world of the ultimate gangster and hear from experts on the real world violence, fear and paranoia that surrounds a drug lord.
  • The Rebirth – Director Brian De Palma, producer Martin Bregman, actor Al Pacino and screenwriter Oliver Stone revisit the history of Scarface, from the inspiration of the original Howard Hawks classic to the evolution of the script
  • The Acting – Join the filmakers, Al Pacino and Steven Bauer to discover how each of the roles was cast and how Brian De Palma worked with his actors to get unforgettable performances
  • The Creating – A fascinating, controversial and definitive journey through the making of the film, which began with the production being forced to leave its initial location in Florida. Discover how the chainsaw scene was filmed, learn about the production design, the photography, and the struggle to get the film an “R” rating.
  • Scarface: The TV Version – A revealing and hilarious montage of film clips comparing the theatrical version to the network television version of Scarface.
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