Carlito’s Way (1993)

Carlito’s Way (1993)
  • Time: 145 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama | Thriller
  • Director: Brian De Palma
  • Cast: Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Penelope Ann Miller


Carlito Brigante is released from jail after serving five years of a much longer stretch. He vows to go straight and to live life as a fine, upstanding citizen. He even rekindles a romance with his ex-lover. However, Carlito’s associates cannot seem to leave him in peace…his nephew involves him a pool-room gunfight, his lawyer asks him for “favors” which spiral out of control, and even an old friend tries to get him into trouble with the law. Carlito decides to make a run for Florida and the promise of a new life, but has one final dramatic escape to make from some hoods who believe (wrongly) that he was behind the murder of their boss.

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  • This is another of Brian De Palma failures that have left him with little chance to reverse, falling totally in the collapse after “Mission To Mars”, and this Pacino movie has emerged as a cult film. It’s actually not so true this last statement: “Carlito’s Way” is not so much a cult classic, simply because it is always overshadowed by her capricious sister “Scarface”, but also due to the same reasoning is not completely forgotten because shares a similar genetic

    If one compares, “Carlitos Way” is slightly better than “Scarface”, but also has the usual De Palma serious problems (and we do not talk about Hitchcock imitations). But though this 1993 film is based on a book, has a striking eye to correct the errors of the film 1983. Al Pacino is much more controlled (however here also tends to overflow, to relax) and while sometimes falls into inertia, on the other hand is brilliant in the dramatic moments. Also, the relationship with Penelope Ann Miller is much more heartfelt, unlike the insipidus and quasi-misogynist Tony Montana / Elvira connection. There is a sense of sophistication over Carlito Brigante, and even the soundtrack is much more current than the over-stylization of Giorgio Moroder, same with the aesthetic that is much less colorful

    But it is true that the argument does not click where it belongs. This is the story of a man who is redeemed, and could be taken two ways: become an existential crime drama à la Woody Allen (highly unlikely), or be a Western transferred to mafia traditions. Instead deviates to casual reflections in the vein of “The Godfather 3” (“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in”), and then continue as a bastion of “Scarface” in style and repeating many of its sins: again the flashy aesthetics in the disco, again the unimpressive criminals, again the ridiculous nicknames for the gangsters (here: “Saso”; “Pachanga”; “Lalin”), again the relentlessly repetition of the word “fuck” (the most punished is Sean Penn, who often repeated), again the mediocre actors. While “Carlito’s Way” corrects some problems of the 1983 movie, in turn there are some pretty bad scenes: the pool scene is artificial, with Pacino went really placing the ball to give right on the target, with Pacino running so clumsy to the bathroom. It is certainly an achievement of direction and style, but it is less shocking than the chainsaw scene of “Scarface”, plus it follows the same pattern: the pool scene, like the chainsaw, are disconnected from the film, with the sole purpose of generating a “Wow! ” scene; plus we again find mafia scammers who want to kill their main stockists

    And like “Scarface 1983”, the film is long, full of easily editable sequences: for example the appearance of Viggo Mortensen seems a desperate cameo for the actor to appear in the movie. The OFF voice of Pacino is good, although it is packed with some Pop psychology about urban life rather than a true reflection of his redemption. But despite the errors, the script and De Palma are responsible for a great moments. Pacino’s relationship with Penelope Ann Miller is felt, even with some nonsense (Pacino goes to a home roof, with a trash can lid on his head to cover from the rain, watching his beloved) and the fact that De Palma costs to move to another instance (which makes the romance consume unnecessary minutes). For its part, the script adds sophistication to Carlito Brigante: this is a smart guy who knows the actions of the mob. Pacino performance in the drama is excellent: in the pool scene for example, Pacino’s face in the first moments warns us that something is wrong here; and other scenes we can also discover more of his interpretation (when Penn appoints the boat in front of Miller). About style, De Palma sometimes tuned to “The Untouchables” and is generally pretty good, but suffers from excessive expressionism: Not all camera movements and angle distortions are subtle. However, in his honor point out the sequence of persecution in the terminal, which is even more tense than the defaulter tribute “Battleship Potemkin” in “The Untouchables”

    (Warning: Spoilers in this paragraph) And while the film is fairly good (even the non-gangster Carlito Brigante nature of his redemption can justify some numbers: eg supposedly prestigious and millionaires mobsters using only a few thugs, ahem), the film decides to commit a suicide in almost end. Just a bad end, and there are three main reasons: the first is that such an intelligent individual and distrustful as Brigante is too naive to Pachanga, the second is that there is insufficient evidence to justify the change of sides of Pachanga, and the third is that the character of Benny Blanco does not have much presence so seems like a script device for someone to kill Brigante. One hypothesis that we maintain is De Palma should have realized this weak ending (and re-calls the ending of “Scarface”) so decided to enhance it by showing the ending at the begining, to generate a “circle” story (begins where it ends); but still remains too weak. It was obvious that Carlito was tied to his nature and therefore must perish at his own game, but there are other ways to run his death instead of a so trivial blow

    “Carlitos Way” is long, buggy, and with unsatisfactory end. When it works, it does so with a certain flight that allows forgive some things, and of course, aged better than her 1983 sister. But it is still a little movie

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