Scarface (1983)

(On DVD, August 2008) This film has escaped conventional film criticism to become a pop-culture symbol, so the shock for an uninformed viewer seeing this for the first time is how lengthy the film feels: As a rags-to-riches story of a Miami drug dealer, there’s plenty of time for duller scenes and lengthier moment in-between the scenes and quotes that everyone remembers so well. Fortunately, one of Al Pacino’s best performances ties the entire film together, along with a savvy script by Oliver Stone and what must still be one of Brian de Palma’s most accomplished films. It’s a big and grandiose story, driven by cinematographic excesses that match the featured protagonist. But it’s also emptier and lazier than its fans are willing to acknowledge: with a running time that almost reaches three hours, you can bet that there’s a lot to material to forget even as the rest is so memorable. The anniversary DVD edition makes a competent job at portraying the production of the film and describing what’s so memorable about it. (Unfortunately, it almost starts believing its own hype, especially when it starts talking about its own video game.). Sadly, there are no audio commentaries.

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