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What is it about big, sprawling gangster epics? Why is it that amongst all the blood, violence and sheer hatred are they addictive and even entertaining? Be it The Godfather, Reservoir Dogs, Goodfellas or Scarface, there is no denying the pulling power of a good mob movie; especially when they’re of this calibre.

Movie
Al Pacino, like him or hate him, you can’t denounce that he's a once-in-a-generation performer. His influence has spread decade after decade, from one film to the next and he’s still at large today (albeit not as brawny as in times past). Scarface, the 1983 remake of the critically acclaimed 1932 picture, had perhaps more exposure and more power that it ever did have back in the golden years of cinema. Perhaps it's solely because of the realism and brutality allowed to be shown on screen in this age that resulted in it being a far more life-like depiction of crime than any early film might have hoped to portray. Indeed, what we have here is a film that's as life-like and brutal as they come.

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Pacino plays an immigrant who makes it big in the US. He worms his way up through the ranks and eventually succumbs to his own power. It’s simple, and maybe even a little stark, but it works. Everything seems well ornamented and everything seems natural.  

Acting is of course superb, even superior to many gangster flicks. Nothing can top The Godfather but Scarface does a mighty good job at trying to do so. Pacino is stellar as Tony and even Michelle Pfeiffer and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio give it their all. However, what really makes this movie special is director Brian De Palmer’s vision of this gritty world. It’s a shame that his talents have never yet been able to outdo what he creates here, but rest assured this is perhaps his finest work and what a work it is. Then again, Oliver Stone’s adaptation is both clever and intimidating simultaneously. Either way, all of these elements melt together to produce a fine cinematic blend and no specific acclaim can be handed out to any one person. It's all magnificent.

Scarface has become something of an icon over the years and it isn’t hard to see why. Characters are memorable, the story is both gripping and illustrative and finally the dynamic structure is to be seen to be believed. Is it a classic? Yes, I certainly think so. Has it lost any steam in these years past? Frankly, no it hasn’t. Good films and especially classics rarely ever age, and if they do, they usually age with potency, with vintage flair. Scarface demonstrates this as well as you could expect. Cinema is this film and it doesn’t come much more clearly packaged or trademarked.

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Video
A gloriously wide transfer with not so glorious qualities is the theme here. Yes, the 2.35:1 aspect looks terrific but the fine detail and the colour definition are a little askew. Considering its age one can overrule such niggles, but it won’t compare with newer releases.

If I was to make a comparison with another gangster flick then fans will be glad to know that this bests The Godfather picture wise and picture wise only. While The Godfather looked very soft and muted, Scarface has a more definable print that is much sharper to behold. To me this a good thing and something that film failed to achieve more than anything.

On the whole, black levels are reasonably strong but a heavy dose of grain and edge enhancement impales the overall score. But as previously said, with the film being so old it is quite natural for it to have at least a few drawbacks.

Audio
Sporting both Dolby Digital and the ever important DTS soundtrack options, this DVD really shines. While the bulk of the audio is centre bound, the clarity that emits from said channel is both crystal clear and prominent. Voices are crisp and musical notes are tuneful. What more could you ask for? If you are looking for a pulse pounding experience with full surround sound activity, I am afraid you are going to be disappointed, but if you are simply looking for quality, then step aboard.

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Extras
With the movie being so long and sporting two soundtrack options, it should come as no surprise that the features were pushed onto the accompanying second disc. Unfortunately there is no commentary to be had here, which is a major disappointment to say the least and none of the features left can really compensate for that loss. However, there is a wealth of lengthy features that may just lure you away from such a letdown.

Kicking off the extras, we first have 'The Rebirth of Scarface' which runs for nearly ten big ones and lays down the groundwork for the remake and its various progressive developments.

Acting Scarface lasts for a more meaty fifteen minutes and all of which plods on about the actors essentially becoming their characters. It’s not all bad; we do get lots of interview material from many involved.

Creating Scarface runs for nearly thirty minutes and really offloads a bulk of useful trivia. We get to learn many of the problems of production, as well as hear from most of the team who crafted the movie.

Scarface: The TV Version compares the cinematic version to the eventual television cut. It only runs for a mere three minutes but breaks down segments of the film and then shows the immediate full-screen (TV) version of the same scene. Quite an interesting piece if I must say so.

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Deleted Scenes is a feature (not a menu selection screen like most) that becomes another lengthy extra that adds to this rather crowded disc. While they are mostly a decent watch, this reel offers little in the way of value when all is said and done.

Next up are both the Theatrical and Teaser trailer for the film and both are heinously outdated by today’s standards and do nothing to elevate this second disc. It's merely a filler.

Finally we have another juicy feature entitled 'Def Jam Presents'. For twenty minutes you can learn the origins and influence hip-hop had and how popularity flourished thereafter.

So that’s it folks. It’s not all bad after all, in fact the disc is rather heavily populated and most of which are long running extras at that. What counts is quality, not quantity and Scarface does indeed deliver on both of these aspects.

Overall
Many will tell you it’s one of the best films to come out of the eighties, I'm  not sure it would qualify to be in the top ten of that decade, but it's a very good movie and it comes home on DVD with style. The video is as good as it will probably get and the sound is not all bad either, with both Dolby and DTS mixes to keep one satisfied. As for the extras, they may lack the much-needed commentary, but regardless of that there is a wealth of features to keep everyone happy.


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