memories of the ’80s – Scarface

For fans of Al Pacino, especially the guys, this film is the consumate gangster movie: Scarface.

Based on a 1932 film of the same name, the 1980s version was directed by Brian de Palma, with the screenplay written by Oliver Stone and the title character of Tony Montana portrayed by Al Pacino.

Set in Miami, Montana and his entourage of Cuban pals, Manny, Angel and Chi-Chi are part of the Mariel Boatlift and brought to the United States from Cuba.

Montana and friends are sent to a refugee camp called Freedomtown and then earn their green cards by killing a former Cuban official for a local drug dealer Frank Lopez. His henchman Omar (played by F. Murray Abraham) is their go-between and although Montana knows he’s being set up, he continues the contact, becoming Lopez’s other man.

Montana walks a fine line, attracted to Lopez’s girlfriend Elvira (played my Michelle Pfeiffer), knowing he can’t trust Omar and wanting more power for himself as well as constantly using the cocaine he’s being paid to distribute.

When Lopez tries to get rid of Montana, he survives the attack and with his buddy Manny, take over Lopez’s drug dealing empire as well as makes Elvira his girlfriend and then wife. Tony’s Mother wants nothing to do with him and tells him to stay away from her and his young sister Gina.

Montana’s continued drug use as well as Elvira’s causes many confused perceptions of his drug-addled world, and the climax of the film shows Montana trying to keep his world together despite his drug addiction, distrust, anger and failure to finish an assassination to keep himself out of jail and escape criminal charges of money laundering and tax evasion.

Brian de Palma had to lobby to change the initial rating of the film from X to Restricted, due to the extreme violent depicted. It was released December 9, 1983.

With an extensive budget of $25 million, this lavish film showed the high life of the cocaine world of Miami, although many detractors disliked the stereotypical portrayal of Cubans as well as the graphic violence. The film grossed over $65 million at the box office, and produced one of film’s favourite quotes from Tony Montana: Say hello to my little friend.

I remember seeing the film a few years after release on videotape and was stunned at the graphic violence and endless cursing – it certainly wasn’t an easy film to watch, but for men, its over the top physical conflicts was a raw depiction of the underworld of cocaine distribution.

Pacino’s stylized character of Tony Montana became the stuff of legends and has become one of the favourite gangster films of all time for 20th and 21st century men, despite the initial reviews which were all negative, its now one of the most beloved films of the 1980s.


About Waheeda Harris

A pop culture junkie with a penchant for exploring our planet.
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