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Blu-ray Review: Carlito’s Way

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Al Pacino has played the ultimate badass countless times in his career. From The Godfather to Scarface and even Dog Day Afternoon, Pacino has found himself in roles that really let him flex his acting chops and muscles. There's an intensity that surrounds many of his roles, and 1993's Carlito's Way is no different.

Directed by Brian DePalma, Carlito's Way was something of a sleeper hit that didn't really grab the attention of audiences until it hit home video (it was also followed by a DTV prequel). Though the title was obviously different, Carlito's Way was actually an adaptation of  the book After Hours by Edwin Torres. The film starred Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante, Sean Penn as David Kleinfeld, Penelope Ann Miller as Gail, and John Leguizamo as Benny Blanco.

The film begins with Carlito being shot in a subway and reminiscing about his life on the streets. We're soon given a flashback to the thing that set this event in motion, and that was sadly his decision to turn his life around. You see, Carlito was a legend when he was on the streets. He was a successful assassin and narcotics dealer who really carved a name out for himself. He was a connected man and feared for all the right reasons, but then he was caught and sent to jail. It was only due to a snafu during the investigation that his lawyer, David Kleinfeld, was able to get him off.

Now that he's a free man Carlito feels he's born again for a new life. He takes great strides to make it known that he's gone clean and wants nothing to do with the seedy underbelly of the underworld. Eventually he partners up with David to co-manage a nightclub in an effort to make enough money to move to the Bahamas. Things seem to be going good for a while, especially since he rekindles an old flame with Gail and the club is rather successful. That's when his buddy David decides to mess things up by getting involved with things he shouldn’t be. Thus the dominoes of Carlito's fall eventually start lining up.

One of the biggest highlights of Carlito's Way stems from Pacino's performance. He plays Carlito in a such a believable manner that you really get the feeling he owned the character. From start to finish Pacino never misses a beat and he really helps craft a captivating anti-hero to root for. As you watch the film you'll want to see Carlito get out of every scrape and come to hope things don't end as the movie began. Joining his powerful performance is Sean Penn, who portrays Carlito's derailing attorney to the letter. They make a dynamic pair that is only complemented by the supporting cast which also includes Viggo Mortensen and Luis Guzman.

Carlito's Way is a film that truly never gets old. It's a riveting gangster flick with a gripping atmosphere and a powerful story. There's a futility to Carlito's "going straight" endeavor, but watching the character do whatever it takes to see his dream fulfilled is utterly captivating. Pacino fans absolutely must pick this film up if they don't already have it in their collection, and everyone else should consider it highly recommended.

Carlio's Way is presented on Blu-ray in full 1080p high definition and its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. For a film that is 17 years old, I dare say that Carlito's Way really pushes the envelope of quality. The picture has been restored to present some glorious detail and from top to bottom this transfer truly stands out. The colors are vibrant, black levels are extraordinarily rich and feature deep shadows, and all around the picture is far more stable than what we've seen before. There may be a little grain and some speckle scattered throughout the image, but the majority of the film is razor sharp with stunning, clean detail. This presentation isn't flawless, but it's definitely the best the film has ever looked and stands out as a benchmark of quality.

For this Blu-ray release, Carlito's Way has been bestowed with a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. The quality is truly outstanding with a great presence on the soundstage. LFE is used intelligently, the rear channels create a fantastic sense of immersion, and everything from the dialogue to music is crisp and clean. The music really takes the center stage with a powerful presence in the mix. All around this is a solidly presented English track. There's also a French DTS 5.1 track, as well as English, Spanish, and French subtitles.

The bonus features here are definitely worth digging into. For starters there's a selection of nine deleted scenes (8:15) to dig through. These are worth checking out, but not integral to enjoyment of the film, which is probably why they were omitted from the final cut. "Brian DePalma on Carlito's Way" (5:26) is a small interview feature with clips of the show scattered throughout. And finally, "The Making of Carlito's Way" (34:36) is a meaty behind the scenes featurette with discussion about the production of the film and plenty of candid moments to enjoy.

Though the film was already made available on the HD-DVD format, the Blu-ray edition is truly a standout release. Carlito's Way is a powerful film with a solid script, great acting, and directing that really keeps the experience tight. The quality of the presentation is also noteworthy with great video and superb audio, and of course there's a decent selection of bonus features to boot. At the end of the day Carlito's Way is a highly recommended classic that is every bit as powerful in 2010 as it was in 1993.

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