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"Scarface" (Blu-ray) - Reviewed by Chris Eberle

movie-september-2011-scarface

Synopsis

In 1980, Fidel Castro released 125,000 refugees to Florida.  Among them were 25,000 criminals, “the dregs of his jails.”  The Immigration Service housed them in several tent cities around Miami and it’s here that we find Tony Montana (Pacino).  He and his friend Manolo (Bauer) are hired to kill a former Communist by a local drug lord and his climb up the ladder of crime begins.  The jobs become more intense and better-paying and soon, Tony is one of the top men in the organization.  His greed begins to control him as he wants more and more and eventually he begins to make deals on his own.  When his boss tries to have him killed, Tony turns the tables, kills him, and takes over the business.  Soon he has an empire and more money than he knows what to do with.

The downward spiral begins as Tony begins to “get high on his own supply” and his grip on reality loosens.  After an assassination attempt on a Bolivian politician fails, he finds himself at war with that country’s biggest drug kingpin.  Tony manages to destroy everything he touches, his friend Manny, his sister, and all his closest associates.  His misdeeds finally catch up with him as he pays the ultimate price for his greed and corruption.


Specifications

  • Universal
  • 1983, Color, Rated R, 2 Hr 50 min
  • Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
  • Codec: VC-1
  • 1080p
  • English 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
  • Starring: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer
  • Directed by Brian de Palma
Rating
  • Entertainment:
  • Video:
  • Audio:
  • Extras:
  • Violence: Extreme
  • Sex: Nudity
  • Language: Extreme

Commentary

This is without a doubt one of the most violent films I’ve ever seen.  It’s not an action movie by any stretch and I’ve seen more blood and gore in other titles.  No, it’s more the intensity and reality of the emotion behind the bloodshed that makes Scarface what it is.  Everything about it is over the top – the acting, the language, the violence, the eighties style, you name it and it’s done with excess.  Al Pacino is ruthless in his character and I have rarely seen a more aggressive performance by any actor.  I applaud him for so accurately portraying a man whose evil and corruption seem limitless.  Though there are other significant performers here like Michelle Pfeiffer, F. Murry Abraham and Robert Loggia; Pacino steals every scene.  The other actors are merely props for his enormous talent.  If you are a fan of gangster movies, this is a must-see.  If you want to see a perfect example of how absolute power corrupts absolutely, look no further.

Technical

Image quality is above average for a film of this vintage although there are flaws.  Color and detail are quite good considering the high grain level.  Dynamic range is also excellent with nice deep blacks and clear, uncrushed highlights.  My only complaints are the rather frequent use of edge enhancement and some crushing of detail in dark scenes.  Often when a character wears a dark suit, you can’t see any features like the lapels or pockets.  Most of the night scenes are crushed as well with people riding in cars looking like floating heads.  The edge enhancement is unnecessary for it only manages to enhance the grain.  Detail in facial closeups is quite good so I don’t understand why there is a need for added sharpness.

Audio is mostly good, especially the music and ambient effects.  I was disappointed in the quality of the dialog however.  Most of the characters talk with thick Cuban accents and this combined with a very flat-sounding mix makes them difficult to understand.  It seems like far too much compression was used in the center channel and intelligibility suffers for it.  The surround channels are used to great effect with plenty of panned action like whizzing bullets and crashing objects.  The surround environment is superior to most movies from this era.  The music is vintage eighties with lots of drums and synthesizers over a studio orchestra.  It certainly captures the flavor of the film well.

Extras

I received the limited edition version which comes in a metal box.  Besides the feature, a copy of the 1932 Scarface is included along with a stack of collectable art cards.  There are over two hours of documentaries, deleted scenes and other behind-the-scenes material.  Also included is PiP commentary which you can toggle on and off while you watch the film.  A provided code gives you access to a digital copy for your portable device or computer.