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Starring: Al Pacino, Robert Loggia, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Steven Bauer


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I've played some of that wacky video game sensation "Grand Theft Auto III." It's a game where you get to play a criminal rising through the ranks of the underworld of some fictional cities, and it's a good time. You can carjack people. If you do this, you can then 'switch the radio stations' in the car, and one of the stations you can land on is an '80s station. When I played this game, I thought the fake 80s songs they invented for the game were really well done and captured the feel of crappy 80s pop rather well. After watching this film, though, I was disturbed to discover that those songs weren't made specifically for that game after all - no, they were lifted directly from the soundtrack to "Scarface." While in one way, that's a pretty cool nod to what's considered a crime-film classic, in another way, it's a sad realization that this film doesn't entirely stand the test of time.

First of all, we've got a bunch of Italians playing Cubans. Pacino plays Tony Montana, a guy exiled from Cuba who enters the crime scene in Miami and eventually makes his way to the top of the game. MaryElizabethMastrantonio plays his sister Gina, who he's naturally insanely overprotective of. Robert Loggia is Frank, the guy who gives him his big break in the business only to get fucked over by him later. This seems weird. Eventually, maybe Hollywood will figure out how to have characters of a certain nationality PLAYED by people OF that nationality... but then actors don't get to show off accents.

Anyway, Pacino does a really good job as Montana, making me understand how this guy earned his reputation. However, this seems to be a rather awful performance by Pfeiffer, and her relationship with Montana doesn't make a lot of sense from her perspective. Ostensibly, Montana wants her because she's a trophy symbol of everything he thinks life owes him, and she wants him because he makes a handy mealticket, but it never quite seems real. Another odd thing is that, being more familiar with Pfeiffer and MaryElizabethMastrantonio as older actresses, I find it hard to believe they're the ages they're supposed to be in this film, since they barely look older at all. The only difference seems to be clothing and somewhat less absurd hairdos. So that's a little effect-ruining.

Another thing that totally derails the film from time to time is the aforementioned crappy music. Good GOD. The story gets rolling and intense for a while, and then suddenly there's a freakin' "time passes-things change" montage set to the worst music ever. Yes, even worse than erratic Philip Glass pretentious-art-music. I'm serious, I expected the "Tony Montana Gets Rich and Powerful" montage to blend into a "Rodney Dangerfield Buckles Down and Studies for Exams" montage and then into a "Scott Baio and Willie Aames Make Inappropriate Use of His Newfound Telekinesis" montage. It's THAT bad. It just slams the brakes on every bit of momentum and then plunges your face into an airbag covered with stickers that say 'You Are Watching An Old-Ass Movie.'

These significant distractions aside, the story itself is fairly involving and compelling, despite the fact that it's your standard 'guy rises from gutter crime to become criminal overlord only to find out that it ain't all it's cracked up to be and undoes himself' story. Pacino is great and magnetic, drawing your eyes at all times, and he carries the film on his back rather ably. Then it gets kinda twisted and disturbing at the end, which winds up being a bloodbath, of course. It works well, though, and he says "Say hello to my little friend!" before firing a near-bazooka thing. Watching classic movies for the first time and waiting with baited breath for the famous lines is a lot like the feeling I got when I read Macbeth for the first time and saw all that cool crap about life being a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. It just makes ya happy.

Is it me, or was the scar on his face not really very apparent at all? That seems like it should have been a little more prevalent. Maybe my TV screen is too small.

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