Scarface is a 1983 film directed by Brian De Palma, written by Oliver Stone and starring Al Pacino as Antonio "Tony" Montana. A loose remake of the 1932 Howard Hawks gangster film of the same title, it tells the story of a fictional Cuban who comes to Florida in 1980 as a result of the Mariel Boatlift.

Tony becomes a gangster against the backdrop of the 1980s cocaine boom. The film chronicles his rise to the top of Miami's criminal underworld and subsequent downfall in Greek tragedy fashion.

The film is dedicated to Howard Hawks and Ben Hecht, who were the writers of the original Scarface.

Plot

Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

In 1980, Tony Montana (Al Pacino), a Cuban refugee, arrives in Miami, Florida during the Mariel boatlift. He and his best friend, Manny Ribera (Steven Bauer), along with friends/associates Angel (Pepe Serna) and Chi-Chi (Ángel Salazar) are sent to a refugee camp, but Manny makes a deal with wealthy drug dealer Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia) to obtain green cards in return for killing a former Cuban government official who murdered Lopez's brother long ago. Following the assassination and their release, they agree to carry out a job for Frank's henchman Omar Suarez (F. Murray Abraham), to buy cocaine from Colombian dealers. The deal quickly goes bad, with the Colombians dismembering Angel with a chainsaw. Before they can do the same to Tony, Manny and Chi-Chi storm the apartment and kill the Colombians. Suspecting a set-up and distrusting Omar, Tony and Manny take the money and cocaine to Frank personally. Frank likes their style and hires Tony and Manny to work for him. This is when Tony first meets and develops a romantic interest in Frank's girlfriend, Elvira Hancock (Michelle Pfeiffer).

Months later, Tony visits his mother, Georgina (Míriam Colón), and younger sister, Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), of whom he is fiercely protective. Gina is excited to see him again, but his mother is disgusted by his life of crime and throws him out. Manny, who is waiting in the car, comments about Gina's beauty, but Tony angrily warns Manny to stay away from her.

Frank sends Tony and Omar to Bolivia to make a transaction with cocaine kingpin Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar). The tension between Tony and Omar peaks when Tony begins to make unauthorized deals on Frank's behalf. Omar agrees to head back home to talk with Frank personally, while Tony is asked to stay behind with Sosa. Shortly afterward, Sosa discloses to Tony that Omar is a police informant, and has Tony witness Omar being pushed and hanged from a helicopter. Tony states that he never liked or trusted Omar, but vouches for Frank. Sosa and Tony part ways with a business understanding, but Sosa warns Tony never to betray him. Upon returning to Miami, Frank is infuriated with Omar's demise and Tony's unauthorized deals, which cause the end of their business relationship. Tony establishes his own operations and openly pursues Elvira more aggressively, asking her to marry him.

At a local nightclub, Tony is shaken down by corrupt Miami detective Mel Bernstein (Harris Yulin), who proposes to "tax" Tony on his transactions in return for police protection and information. Tony sees Elvira, and sits with her to discuss his proposal, but Frank arrives and angrily demands that Tony leave. But Tony insults Frank instead, causing Frank to leave with Elvira. Tony then sees Gina dancing with a drug dealer, and follows them to a restroom stall, where Gina is snorting cocaine. Tony throws the man out of the bathroom and slaps Gina after she angrily confronts him. Manny, sympathizing with Gina, takes her home. Gina reveals her attraction to Manny, but he wards her off, fearful of Tony's wrath should he catch them together. Back at the club, Tony is attacked and wounded by two gunmen but manages to escape, killing both of them in the process. Suspecting Frank sent Bernstein and the hitmen, Tony and Manny confront Frank at his office, finding him with Bernstein. With the assistance of one of his loyal associates, via a pre-arranged phone call, Tony successfully exposes Frank as the culprit behind the failed assassination attempt. Frank begs for his life before Manny shoots him dead on Tony's order. Tony then shoots and kills Bernstein. Tony, having consolidated power, takes over Frank's empire, marries Elvira, and becomes incredibly wealthy with Sosa as his supplier.

Over time, cracks in Tony's operation begin to form. Tony and Elvira become addicted to cocaine and drift apart, while Tony's increasing paranoia begins to take a toll on his friendship with Manny, who is unhappy with his role as "junior partner", entrusted only with security. Tony is eventually charged with money laundering and tax evasion after police stage a sting operation. Tony is arrested and makes bail, but his lawyer explains there will be a huge fine and up to three years in jail. Sosa flies Tony to Colombia, and offers him a way out. In exchange for the use of Sosa's government connections to keep him out of jail, Tony must fly to New York City with Sosa's henchman Alberto (Mark Margolis) to help assassinate a Bolivian journalist intent on exposing Sosa during a speech to the United Nations. During dinner at a fancy restaurant with a depressed and drunken Tony and a stoned Elvira, an already unhappy Manny is asked to stay behind and "run things" while Tony goes to New York. Tony then accuses Elvira of being a "junkie" with whom he could never have children, resulting in a physical altercation and Elvira announcing that she is leaving Tony.

Tony arrives in New York with Chi Chi, Ernie, and Alberto. They stake out the journalist's apartment and Alberto wires the man's car with a remote bomb. The next morning, upon seeing the journalist accompanied in the car by his family, Tony tries to call off the operation, horrified by the idea of killing the journalist's wife and children. Alberto states that Sosa's explicit instructions are to tail the journalist and blow up his car in front of the United Nations building, and refuses to call off the hit. Before Alberto can detonate the bomb, Tony shoots him in the head. Furious, Sosa calls Tony later that evening and after a heated exchange, the kingpin reminds Tony of their first conversation, wherein he warned Tony never to betray him.

Tony then sets out to find Gina, who has been missing since he left for New York. Tony's mother tells him of an address in Coconut Grove she had followed Gina to one night. Tony arrives at a mansion at that address, and finds Manny and Gina together. He kills Manny in a fit of rage; however, Gina had intended to surprise Tony with the announcement of their recent marriage. Tony and his men bring an extremely distraught Gina back to Tony's mansion. As Tony sits snorting a large pile of cocaine in his office, Sosa's men surround the mansion, heavily armed and quietly killing Tony's guards along the way. At this point, a heavily-drugged Gina enters Tony's office and accuses Tony of wanting her for himself, before shooting him in the leg. One of Sosa's gunmen bursts into the room and kills Gina. Tony kills the gunman and upon seeing Gina's corpse, falls into heavy rumination. Chi Chi is then killed when Tony fails to open the door despite his frantic pleas. Finally, in a cocaine-fueled fury, Tony makes his last stand, using an M16 equipped with an under-barrel M203 grenade launcher, and extended magazines opening fire and killing dozens of Sosa's men while issuing the famous line: "Say hello to my little friend!". Tony takes 53 hits but manages to survive until he is fatally shot in the back by Sosa's henchman, The Skull. His jaw drops, Tony's body falls from the staircase into the fountain at the bottom, in front of the statue reading "The World is Yours."

All spoilers have been stated and have ended here.

Cast

Production & controversy

Scarface was directed by Brian De Palma, produced by Martin Bregman, and written by now famed director Oliver Stone battling against a cocaine addiction. Stone consulted the Miami police and the Drug Enforcement Agency while writing the film, incorporating many true crimes into the film, including using crime scene photos to inspire the infamous chainsaw scene.

The film was originally to be filmed in Florida but received criticism from the Cuban community who objected to various aspects of the film. Community representatives were opposed to the depiction of Cubans as drug dealers and demanded that the script be changed to incorporate anti-Fidel Castro rhetoric (most notably, changing Tony Montana into a spy working for Fidel Castro and the introduction of anti-Castro political organizations into the plot as foils for Montana) into the film. After protracted negotiations the producers ultimately refused to give in, saying the film was about cocaine and not the politics of Castro's Cuba. In order to ensure the safety of the crew and to avoid confrontations - with the exception being obvious exterior shots - the movie was filmed in and around Los Angeles.

When the film was submitted to the MPAA it was rated "X" for its extreme violence and graphic language, with the shooting of the clown performer and the chainsaw torture sequence the primary objects of concern. DePalma cut the film twice but it still received an "X" rating. After the film was rejected for the third time DePalma with the help from a panel of experts including real narcotics officers told the MPAA the violence was an accurate portrayal of real life drug dealers and the film should be released with the violence intact to show viewers how violent the drug business was. With a third vote of 18 to 2 in favor of an "R" the MPAA agreed. But DePalma, who felt the differences between the two 'clean' cuts he put together were insignificant, arranged to have the uncut version released to theatres with an "R" rating instead.

Critical reception

Scarface held its premiere on December 1st, 1983 in New York City where it was initially greeted with mixed reaction. Among those in attendance were the film's two stars: Al Pacino and Steven Bauer as well as Burt and Diane Lane, Melanie Griffith, Raquel Welch, Joan Collins; her then-boyfriend Peter Holm and Eddie Murphy among others. According to AMC's "DVD TV: Much More Movie" airing: Cher loved it, Lucille Ball, who came with her family, hated it because of the graphic violence and language; Dustin Hoffman was said to have fallen asleep. Writers Kurt Vonnegut and John Irving were among those who were said to have walked out in disgust after the notorious "chainsaw" scene. At the middle of the film, Martin Scorsese turned behind to Steven Bauer and told him "You guys are great - but be prepared, because they're going to hate it in Hollywood. . . because it's about them."

Scarface, upon its first release, drew controversy regarding the violence and graphic language in the film, and received many negative reviews from movie critics. Despite this, the film grossed $65 million worldwide and has since gathered a large following. On the 2 Disc Special Edition, director Brian De Palma said that the film was well received by only one notable critic, Vincent Canby of The New York Times. However, Roger Ebert rated it four stars out of four in his 1983 review and he later added it to his "great movies" list. IMDb cites that the word fuck is used 207 times in the film.

Releases

VHS

Scarface was initially released by MCA Home Video on VHS and Beta in the summer of 1984; a two-tape set in 1.33:1 Pan and scan ratio and quickly became a bestseller, preluding its cult status. A 2.35:1 Widescreen VHS would follow years later in 1998 to coincide with the special edition DVD release. The last and most recent VHS release was in 2003 to counterpart the 20th anniversary edition DVD.

DVD

Scarface has been released on DVD three times in the United States as of 2007. The first was released by Universal Studios Home Entertainment on the film's 15th anniversary in 1998 under the studio's "Collector's Edition" line. The DVD featured a non-anamorphic widescreen transfer, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, a "Making of" documentary, outtakes, production notes and cast & crew bios. This release was not successful, many fans and reviewers complained about its unwatchable video transfer and muddled sound, describing it as "one of the worst big studio releases out there". This DVD quietly went out of print and in 2003 Universal released a remastered two disc "Anniversary Edition" to coincide with the film's 20th anniversary re-release, featuring two documentaries; one re-edited from the last release to include new interviews with Steven Bauer (Manny) and another produced by Def Jam Recordings featuring interviews with various rappers on the film's cult success in the hip-hop world and other extras ported over from the previous DVD. New to this edition was a 2.35:1 Anamorphic widescreen transfer and 5.1 surround sound in both Dolby Digital and DTS. Curiously, the limited theatrical re-release also boasted a remastered soundtrack with enhanced sound effects and music, but the DVD's 5.1 tracks were mixed from the film's original audio; resulting in noticeably limited frequency and surround effects. A limited-edition box set was also produced featuring a gold money clip, production stills, lobby cards and a DVD of the original Scarface. In 2005, Universal released a single disc movie-only version of the Anniversary Edition, with deleted scenes as the sole bonus feature.

In the fall of 2006, Universal released Scarface in a two disc "Platinum Edition", featuring the remastered audio from the theatrical re-release in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 surround. Most of the extras (with the exception of the Def Jam documentary, production notes and cast & crew bios) from the Anniversary Edition were also included along with two new featurettes regarding the new video game and the criminal and cultural world of Miami in the 1980s. Also new to this edition was a "scoreboard", which counted number of bullets fired and uses of the word "fuck" throughout the film.

Spin-offs & Tie-ins

There have been a number of spin-offs and tie-ins in a range of media.

Music

The music in Scarface was produced by Academy Award winning Italian record producer, Giorgio Moroder. Like Moroder's style, the soundtrack consists mostly of synthesized new wave, electronic music.

Video games

A licensed video game, Scarface: The World Is Yours was released in September and October 2006 as well as an update in June 2007, developed by Radical Entertainment and published by Vivendi Universal Games. The game is a pseudo-sequel, and goes on the premise that Tony actually survived the raid on his mansion at the end of the film. Wii, PS2, Xbox, and PC versions have been released.

Radical and Vivendi also released a second licensed video game, Scarface: Money, Power, Respect, in October 2006. The game is much like Scarface: The World is Yours, but one main difference is that the second game deals more with the controlling of drugs and managing of the Montana cocaine empire and turf, whereas The World is Yours is mostly focused on getting rid of gangs, gaining respect and overall reconstruction of the empire. To date, only a PSP version of this game has been released.

The hit Grand Theft Auto: Vice City also has some small similarities to Scarface, like an easter egg that has the bloody bathroom from the chainsaw scene, Also the Malibu Club is very similar to the Babylon Club. In the beginning of the game, Tommy Vercetti's drug deal gets busted, much like the coke deal that Tony gets double crossed in. There is also a mission in the game where Tommy and his partner Lance Vance kill Tommy's cocaine-dealing boss Ricardo Diaz, much like when Tony and Manny kill Frank. Finally, the last mission of the game ("Keep Your Friends Close...") is a slight spin-off of the final scene in Scarface. In this mission Tommy has to fend of a whole rival gang in his mansion with only a few weapons. The only difference, however, is that Tommy lives through the fight with Ken Rosenberg to start "a new business relationship".

The game PAYDAY 2 has numerous references to Scarface. The contractor, Hector, is a Colombian cartel head, who is named after the character Hector from the film, though he dresses and acts in a similar manner to Montana himself. When he is discovered to be a traitor, and the gang head out to kill him, if the players are unable to open his panic room quietly while, he will prepare for their attack, and as the door opens he will yell "Say hello to my little friend." Universal later partnered with Overkill Software, to make expansion packs for their game, based on the the film. The packs include Tony as a playable character, under the moniker "Scarface." Since the gang wears clown masks to conceal their identities, he wears a mask that is inspired by the black and white poster for the film, bearing a scar on the right eye similar to Tony's. He has two signature weapons, the "Little Friend 7.62" which is modelled after Tony's signature M16 and M203 Grenade launcher, and a short chainsaw, inspired by the scene in which Angel is killed by Hector, the game also features a perk deck, which makes the player able to take more damage before being downed, similar to Montana's coke fuelled last stand where he was shot numerous times yet remained standing. A heist that takes place in Tony's mansion where the players must take out members of the Sosa Cartel.

Books & comics

Dark Horse Comics' imprint, DH Press, released a novel called Scarface: The Beginning by L. A. Banks.

In 2007, IDW Publishing released a new series called Scarface: Scarred for Life, which picks up where the film ends; as in the video game, it depicts Tony Montana barely surviving the film's climactic shotgun blast and, with the aid of two corrupt DEA agents, recovering to rebuild his empire and seek revenge on Sosa. This series was written by John Layman, with art by Dave Crosland. IDW followed it in July 2007 with a prequel comic mini-series called Devil in Disguise, by Joshua Jabcuga and Alberto Dose, which shows Antonio's pre-boatlift days as a boy learning his way around the Cuban criminal underworld.

TV & film

In the year 2001, plans were set into motion for hip hop artist Cuban Link to write and star in a sequel to Scarface entitled Son of Tony. The plans for a prospective sequel drew both praise as well as criticism, and after several years Cuban Link had expressed that he may no longer be involved with the project as the result of movie rights issues and creative control.

USA Network announced in 2003 they would be producing a mini-series based on the movie; however, the series' current status is unknown.

Pop culture

  • Scarface has been frequently referenced to in other popular works. In particular, the "Say hello to my little friend" line is repeated in various movies, television shows and video games. The line took 61st place as the most famous quote on the list AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movie Quotes.
  • In the 2007 video game The Simpsons Game on DS, in the level Five Characters in Search of An Authour, Bart Simpson will confront Matt Groening in Scarface's mansion, the globe will be saying The World, Dude.
  • The opening sequence of Scarface was duplicated for the opening of the Beastie Boys concert movie, Awesome; "I Fuckin' Shot That!".
  • Tony's M16 rifle, which he dubbed his "little friend", ranked eighth in a 20th Century Fox film poll regarding the most popular film weapons. The 2008 poll surveyed approximately two thousand film lovers.
  • The "Say Hello To My Little Friend" part was used in Epic Movie, where a faun was Tony.
  • In the Season 9 episode of the animated series South Park titled "Erection Day." For the school Talent show, the character Eric Cartman, recites Scarface's famous "Bad guy" monologue, to the amusement of the crowd and horror of the faculty. South Park also made extensive references to Scarface in the Season 14 episode "Medicinal Fried Chicken" during wing KFC is banned in South Park, Cartman wanting to get more chicken joins a cartel intent on smuggling KFC into the town. eventually leading to Cartman meeting Colonel Sanders (taking the place of Alessandro Sosa.) There are many lines and scenarios lifted verbatim, from the movie, though modified to be about Fried Chicken instead of cocaine (though oddly enough, during a scene reminiscent of Tony's final call with Sosa, Cartman cuts and snorts a piece of chicken skin up his nose.)
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