Excess. Nothing exceeds like it. And Brian De Palma's blood-red, cocaine-white upgrade of Howard Hawks' 1932 gangster pic reeks of the stuff. It's the story of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) - one of thousands of Cubans who flooded the Florida coast when Fidel Castro emptied his jails - - and his ferocious rise from dishwasher to druglord. ""I just want what's coming to me,"" he tells best friend Manny (Steven Bauer). ""The world... And everything in it.""
Crushing everyone in his path, Montana's ruthless ambition earns him a coke empire, some horrid '80s suits and bored ice-queen Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer). But the American Dream chimes hollow, and Montana's lust for wealth, power and his sister (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) is destined to destroy everything...
For his first gangster epic, De Palma jettisoned his usual Hitchcockian-homaging stylistics and settled for pure bravura moviemaking. Scenes of roaring, set-piece violence are spectacularly orchestrated, and with the motel chainsaw massacre, our bloody intro to the US coke trade, he comes up with a show-and-tell shower scene almost as memorable as Hitch's.
De Palma's fave themes of duality are here too, Montana's reflection splintered by nightclub mirrors and his increasingly dark attire tracing the rot of his soul. But remember - - if you want a movie with subtle depths, a movie that knows when to stop, you're in the wrong town. We're talking excess here. The hard stuff.
Against a cringy pop-synth score, Chinatown DoP John Alonzo's Miami is like a garish, fake paradise - - all postcard sunsets and huge, neon-ribbed sets - - that tightens into choked, hellish compositions as Montana's world shrivels with paranoia. And Pacino? Over the top and down the other side.
Like Michael Corleone's monstrous id made flesh, Pacino embraces Montana with an operatic performance bordering on terrifying comedy. Watch him recklessly snort up Oliver Stone's cathartic script, that chewy Coo-ban accent igniting every crackerjack rant (""Jou know what capitalism eese? Getting focked!""). Watch him plunge facefirst into a desktop mountain of cocaine and play a meltdown of incestuous rage with his nose daubed white. Watch him fly sky-high on his own intensity. Hell, just watch him.