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DVD Review: Scarface(1983) – Platinum Edition

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After releasing the 20th anniversary edition in 2003, Universal dips back into the well to present Scarface: Platinum Edition in a synergistic move to help draw attention to the newly released video game, Scarface: The World is Yours, a hypothetical sequel based around the idea that Tony Montana survives the shoot out at his mansion against Sosa’s men in the film’s conclusion. The game uses the model from the highly successful Grand Theft Auto series with the player getting to be Tony.

Brian DePalma’s remake transports the story from 1920s Chicago to 1980s Miami as Tony Montana arrives in the United States from Cuba. While staying in a makeshift refugee detention center, he earns his freedom by killing a former Cuban official. On the outside, he takes a job as a dishwasher, but soon finds big money making deliveries for drug kingpin Frank Lopez. Of course, the more Tony gets, the more he wants. His rise in power and his abuse of cocaine fuel his paranoia, which in turn clouds his judgment.

Scarface is a very simple, tragic tale that we’ve seen many times about a man trying exceed his boundaries and being punished for it. He’s told the rules of this world and willfully disobeys them. Since the story has no surprises, the film shocks with its levels of profanity and violence. The film almost received an X rating, but a team of narcotics experts spoke to the members of the ratings board. A feature can be activated that provides a running total of the variants of “fuck” uttered and the number of bullets used, although during the firing of machine guns and off-screen weapons it may not be accurate.

There is no subtlety in the world of Scarface. The level of over-the-top melodrama is reminiscent of an opera, the colors of Miami are garish, and Al Pacino gives one of the hammiest performances ever captured on film. The combination works for the most part and creates an entertaining film, but I’m not sure it is always intentional because the cast and crew speak in the features with an undeserved air of importance. The film comes across as a satire of the American Dream, but none of the creators make any mention of it.

Scarface does have its flaws. Because the film is from the ‘80s, it has an aerobics montage, the annoying, requisite sequence where the story is pushed along to a bland yet upbeat pop song that belongs in a gym instead of a movie. The opening scene is strange because Charles Durning dubs his voice over an actor’s performance, creating some odd Dog Day Afternoon reunion. There are also some weird, unexplained feelings that Tony has for his sister that go beyond being a big brother.

While Pacino’s performance is technically amazing because of the sustained levels of exaggeration needed to create Tony, it is also distracting at times. Tony is not likable even though moments are forced into the story to create that impression. When his partners in Bolivia need his assistance to kill a journalist, he heads to New York with his men and a Bolivian assassin. A bomb is planted on the journalist’s car, but when the man’s family joins him, Tony refuses to allow the hit to take place. This scene is meant to make him look better than the Bolivians, which it doesn’t, and is required to motivate the Bolivians to kill him. It’s unbelievable that Tony made the trip and drives the car around town.  He has people that do that for him now.

The set comes with a second DVD that recycles previous extras from the 20th anniversary edition. “The Rebirth of Scarface,” “Acting Scarface,” and “Creating Scarface” are edited interviews of the cast and crew. “Scarface: The TV Version” presents the changes made to the film. It is amusing, but way too brief at only three minutes. There is also over 20 minutes of deleted scenes

A new feature is “The World of Tony Montana” that presents law enforcement officials that speak to the realities of the drug problem. It could have been a very interesting piece except for two interviewees who apparently won some type of contest or bet. Eric Gillan, Entertainment Editor for Maxim and Branden Peters, Lifestyle Editor for XXL don’t add anything that two guys who just saw the movie couldn’t. Gillan offers some particularly brilliant nugget of wisdom when he warns, “Don’t be a Miami drug dealer. If you are gonna be a Miami drug dealer, don’t get into a gun battle in your house.” I sat dumbfounded as I tried to imagine the person who lost the audition to him.

The audio has been completely restored and digitally enhanced. It is available in Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 Audio. The picture has been remastered as well. If you already own it, it’s not worth repurchasing. Wait until you upgrade formats.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS