Monday, January 3, 2011


(November 1993, U.S.)

Ladies and gentlemen, we now return you to my favorite actor of all time, Al Pacino. Wait, even better, we now return you to Al Pacino paired up again with director Brian DePalma! These are the two same sons-of-bitches who gave us the 1983 version of SCARFACE, probably the best damn remake ever made in the history of movies! A crime/gangster film such as CARLITO'S WAY with these two men at the helm naturally had me at the theater ticket booth as soon as it opened. I should also point out that this was Sean Penn's first return to film after he swore he would only spend his life as a director (I suppose when you've spent any amount of time being married to Madonna, you're bound to dish out some bullshit once in a while).

Loving Pacino the way I do gives a guy like me a certain flexibility with the films he makes. They're not all great, mind you. Some of them suck (S1MONE). Some of them are total disasters that not even his great talent can rescue (DICK TRACY). My point is that while CARLITO'S WAY is a great film, there are frustrations I find myself enduring when watching its central character, Carlito Brigante. As he struggles to escape his past criminal activities and go straight after spending five years in prison, it seems as if his mind and his actions are always in conflict with each other. On the surface, and with the help of Pacino's narration, it would appear as if Carlito Brigante is a sharp, quick-thinker who is always considering the angles and attempting to stay ahead of the other guy in order to survive and achieve his financial goal so he can escape to paradise with the woman he loves, Gail (played by Penelope Ann Miller). On the other hand, though, it seems that he's constantly making bad (even stupid) decisions despite his street smarts. Why does he keep his precious money in an ordinary nightclub office safe where nearly anyone who works there can get at it? Why does he constantly put himself at risk at the behest of his lawyer friend, Dave Kleinfeld (played brilliantly by Sean Penn), when he knows that he's becoming more and more like the gangsters he represents? Why does he trust his right-hand man at the club, Pachanga (played by Luis Guzman) with his secret getaway plan and with the life of his girlfriend when he's been previously warned that Pachanga may be spying on him for a rival gangster? It's this carelessness and inexplicable naivete that ultimately gets him shot and killed in the end at Grand Central Station. It's a shame, too, because throughout the entire film, you really want Carlito to succeed and escape his enemies.

Incidentally, if you're familiar with Brian DePalma and his films, then you will remember THE UNTOUCHABLES (1987) and the train station sequence very well. DePalma must have a thing for train station shootouts because we are treated to another one at the end of CARLITO'S WAY. And by the way, the next post on my blog will also be a Brian DePalma film. Judging by the alphabet, can you guess what it is?

Favorite line or dialogue:

Benny Blanco: "I don't know, but there may be some mis-fuckin'-understanding, I don't know man, but maybe you don't remember me, my name is Benny..."
Carlito Brigante: "Maybe I don't give a shit! Maybe I don't remember the last time I blew my nose either! Who the fuck are you? I should remember you? What, you think you like me? You ain't like me motherfucker, you a punk! I've been with made people, connected people! Who've you been with? Chain snatching, jive-ass, maricon motherfuckers! Why don't you get out of here and go snatch a purse!"

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