SCARFACE Tony and his “leedle friend.”


dir. De Palma

Opens Fri Jan 9

Clinton Street Theater

"This town is like a great big pussyÉ just waiting to get fucked."--Tony Montana

Though a source of critical yelping in 1983 for violence and potty talk, Brian De Palma's Scarface has aged extremely well and is once again getting the big-screen treatment at the Clinton this week. The theater is celebrating the 20th anniversary of this bloody, profanity-laced classic in all its gory glory via a pristine 35MM print--which promises surprises not seen in the original theatrical version.

Based on the 1932 Howard Hawks film of the same name, De Palma not only captured the zeitgeist of the original, he also exposed the sickly underbelly of the Reagan '80s. The original starred Paul Muni as a violent gangster killing his way to the top in Prohibition era Chicago. In De Palma's version, the government's hypocritical banning of booze is updated to the even more idiotic "War on Drugs"--giving Cuban refugee Tony Montana (Al Pacino) a perfect way to take part in the American dream.

In a critical (and extremely bloody) scene involving a drug deal gone bad and a chainsaw, Tony gains a foothold with local drug-lord Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia). With laser-like tenacity, Tony begins putting together the pieces of a puzzle that will ultimately put him on the top of the Miami crime world--and in bed with his former boss' mistress (Michelle Pfeiffer). As Tony so eloquently--and correctly--puts it, "In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the woman."

Of course, this lockstep march to power--along with a really weird obsession with his sister--leads Tony to a tumble of Shakespearean proportions. His fall culminates in a hilarious scene where Tony is buried face-first in a mountain of blow, and a blazing, career-ending gunfight (where we say both hello and goodbye to his "leedle friend").

Never mind the slow final hour. Never mind that Italians play most of the Latino characters. Never mind that De Palma has all the subtlety of a shovel to the face. While completely cartoonish, underneath the exploding blood capsules and "fucking fucks," Scarface is a blast to watch, and nails the American reality. Built on money and power, our country is indeed "a pussy just waiting to be fucked." And for those on the outside looking in, the path to success is crystal clear: either pay the cost to be the boss, or get "buried like a cock-a-roach."