Scarface is in the top tier of gangster films, its depiction of ruthless violence and the underworld drug scene has influenced the genre powerfully and inspired many films and even video games (Grand Theft Auto: Vice City). The film charts the rise of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) from small time Cuban refugee hood to gold plated drug baron sitting crazed in his mansion with a mountain of cocaine on his desk. Directed by Brian De Palma, with a screenplay penned by Oliver Stone, a fantastic score from Giorgio Moroder and a great cast it shouldn´t be any surprise that this film is uncompromising and highly exciting viewing.

Al Pacino and Steven Bauer in Scarface

Inspired by the 1932 classic of the same name this movie helped modernise the way the underworld has been depicted in film. Tony (Pacino) badly wants to be a big time gangster, in fact he is prepared to go a lot further than most to achieve his goal. His violent nature is established early on in one of the squalid immigration camps used to hold those trying to flee to the States. He sees America as the land of opportunity and he is determined to stamp his mark there but his vision of the American dream is a little more blood soaked than most.

He arrives in Miami with his friend Manny (Steven Bauer) and they set about looking for work. Tony is determined to make some real cash and it isn´t long before they are working for gangsters. Despite his apparent success Tony is never satisfied, his mother is disgusted with his criminal ways but his naive younger sister seems dazzled by the lifestyle and the money, not to mention the drugs. Tony soon decides to claim power for himself, and he wants to claim all the trappings, including his boss´s trophy girlfriend, played by Michelle Pfeiffer. The action builds to an incredible ending, which simply cannot be forgotten.

The direction is fantastic; the film moves at a fast pace and really brings across the hyper charged character of Tony Montana. Pacino exudes power in the role, his charisma ensures your eyes follow him on the screen and despite being sickened by his actions it is difficult not to root for him. He does a stunning job of taking Montana from the quiet, hungry street hood all the way up to the raving paranoid coke-head he becomes, the picture of defiance and arrogance.

Pacino goes insane

The script is excellent, the conversations and arguments are believable and nicely portrayed by the cast. The use of popular music ties the action into the social scene in which the film is set and definitely adds to the overall style. The violence in this film is extreme and the tension built in certain scenes, such as the chainsaw attack, is powerfully affecting.

The character "Scarface" has become a stereotype in modern culture; the image of him with a gun in each hand spitting fury on scores of enemies is iconic. He is fascinating and repulsive at the same time. Ultimately driven by a warped desire to make something of himself, to become a "big man" but when he gets there and the hunger is replaced with arrogance, the whole thing comes tumbling down around him.

This is a truly great film, which sits alongside the Godfather II and Goodfellas in the gangster genre. Much admired and copied it is a gripping and exhilarating tale, which should leave a lasting impression in your mind.

Reviewed by Simon Hill

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