Scarface (UK - BD)
Marcus didn't get this scar eating pineapple so stick it up your toilet...
Tony Montana (Al Pacino) is a bad seed. A Cuban refugee with a taste for violence and a hunger to take over his world. Leaving his small time life behind him and joining Miami drug dealer Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia) Montana soon gets a hunger for more and takes over the business and everything else that comes with it but once you’ve got the money, the power and the women, the only thing left is someone to try and take it away from you.
Scarface is deemed a classic but it’s one I’ve never really gotten on board with. Don’t get me wrong Al Pacino’s central performance is pretty incredible and watching his character grow really does have its moments with Pacino delivering some of his best work but I find the movie itself pretty dull if I’m honest. Sitting down to watch it for this new Blu-ray edition, I did my best to go in with an open mind and had the thin hope that this HD release would do what VHS and DVD previously had failed to do and win me over to the much loved gangster epic.
Well within half an hour I was getting the same old feelings I have for Scarface. Aly Patch is great to watch as Tony. He’s ballsy, over confident and everything a little tyrant needs to be and more and somehow in a movie very much of its era he feels like a timeless character who's as relevant today as he was then. However it’s the world he’s in that doesn’t hold up. Everyone around him feels dated and I can’t believe even for a second that the nightclub they go to would ever have been deemed ‘gangster’ enough to hang out in. Somehow this is all too much to make me believe the darkness of Tony’s world even at his most batshit crazy. There’s something about the bad score, bad styles, some hokey acting from the supporting cast and surpringly loose script form Oliver Stone that feels a bit flat and hard to connect with for me. Any chemistry that may exist between Michelle Pfeiffer and Al Pacino is blown apart by the weird combination of bad music and odd dancing happening in their first real conversation but what baffles me the most is just how revered Tony Montana is both in and out of the film.
I can see the appeal for the epic almost Shakespearian story of Tony Montana as it's full of passion and greed with violence that's so over the top it's great (in places) but as a character to aspire to, Tony Montana loses me. There are so many more gangster characters out there that shine brighter than Montana. Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone from The Godfather series seems a most obvious one to go with or the lion’s share of characters in Goodfellas, yet somehow this Scarface character has become an icon of the gangster lifestyle and he’s the most cartoon like in my mind and not all that good at what he does. If anything Tony Montana’s tale is how to do it the wrong way (if there is indeed a ‘right’ way) . He’s sloppy, has more luck than genuine achievements and even though the story of 'having everything usually leaves you with nothing of any real worth' is played out in most gangster movies, Tony feels like he never really had much to begin with, so when he loses it all it feels quite deserving as opposed to devastating.
I don’t know, all of this is probably sounding mental to all the Scarface die hards out there but this is one that just doesn’t click with me and carrying on airing my luke warm feelings for Scarface seems a bit redundant given the knowledge that I'm probably in a minorty, so I guess we should move on to the how this ‘classic’ has been handled with this Blu-ray release...
Scarface arrives on Blu-ray with mixed results. When the transfer looks good, it can provide well textured, detailed and quite strikingly coloured images. Close ups of Tony in the first half of the film reveal every bead of sweat from surviving a chainsaw attack as well as from cooking and cleaning on a street corner. Later in the film Tony’s black, red and gold office pops off the screen and feels bright. The same can be said for the strong sunset scenes with the deep black foregrounds bathed in the peachy light of the sky. You can see the HD upgrade all over these scenes however all of these elements are few and far between because as a whole this Scarface HD presentation is inconsistent and frankly not all that impressive.
For starters skin tones can range from perfection to over cooked and in a small minority of scenes even waxy. Reds feel a little too ramped up and can often trip over to feeling more orange or pinky. In cooler coloured scenes these iffy reds can feel totally overpowering and can make a well dressed set look drab in comparison. Also the image can often times feel a tad too dark, serving up a fairly grubby looking image when mixed with the grain. Wide shots are so soft and blurry it can sometimes feel like you’re watching a movie in 3D and the sporadic nature of how the quality differs can change three or four times in a scene, or like in the case of the red lit scenes in Frank’s office, just plain bad.
Scarface on Blu-ray isn’t all bad and has extended periods where you get used to the look and appreciate the benefits HD has brought to the movie, especially in regards to making scenes feel a little less flat as they were on DVD but when comparing this mish mash of a transfer to a modern movie or even older movies that have been treated well, it’s hard to stay positive here as this feels like a bit of a mess.
I’ll say up front that I hate everything about the Scarface score and soundtrack. For me it undermines a lot of what’s meant to be so enthralling or dark about Tony’s world but on this DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track, it's by far the strongest element. From the opening scenes giving us a backstory on the Cubans, the terrible score fills the room with fantastic effect. Every channel feels full of power and the subtle sonics in the rear speakers add a whole lot of weight. This remains consistent throughout and everything from club scenes (worst club with the worst excuse for 'entertainment' ever by the way) and the ‘Take it to the Limit’ montage really brings the track to life, which is lucky because the dialogue really doesn’t.
The moment we jump to Tony being interrogated the dialogue feels confined, much lower than the music elements and a little muffled (though I guess a big part of that is down to the accents as well, man). Paying closer attention, the dialogue barely escapes from the centre speaker and once in a while I found myself fiddling with the settings to make the dialogue stronger or turning it back down when the music or extremely strong machine guns kicked off. Other than the balance issues, the mix seemed pretty good with a handful of atmospheric effects creeping in well from time to time. It’s not all that dynamic but it does have a fair bit of power, especially in the explosive finale, so while it’s far from perfect it has its moments for sure.
The making of, 'Scarface Phenomenon' (38:34 HD) is great, outside of the distinct lack of Al Pacino or any of the main cast. It’s a mix of those involved with the project (De Palma and Producer Martin Gregman being the biggest guns), film critics, Sen Dog of Cypress Hill as well as writers and filmmakers including Eli Roth. It gives a great overview of the movie's growth since its release and there's plenty of bigging up how good the movie is. So now with my feeling aired about not being all that bothered with the film I feel even more like I don't get it.
The Deleted Scenes (22:29 SD) are in pretty rough quality and feel distinctly unfinished but there's lots to see that extended the movie a bit. ‘The World of Tony Montana’ (11:38 SD) feels like it’s part of a clip show with a government agency and cops telling us what Miami was like and how well the movie depicts it.
The next batch of features is the old DVD making of cut down into segments. ‘The Rebirth’ (10:08 SD) features a few clips from the original black and white Scarface and the road to creating the remake. ‘The Acting’ (15:05 SD) focuses more on the actors and their work. ‘ The Creating’ (29:35 SD) is the main body of the original making of and provides the fullest look at the movie.
‘The Making of Scarface: The Video Game’ (12:05 SD) is a deliriously out of date look at the old game and wrapping up (and incidentally the jewel in the crown of any Scarface release for me) is the ‘TV Version’ (02:48) which has the amazing cleaner lines used for the TV cut. More discs should feature this stuff as they never fail to raise a smile. “This town is like a great big chicken waiting to get plucked”.
As for U Control, we get a Scarface F bomb Counter and shots fire counter as well as some picture in picture stuff which is just the small snippets of the discs extras repeated all over again but specific to scenes, albeit with a few extra bits here and there
So now as I've officially outted myself as non Scarface fan, I can say that while the movie looks better than it did on DVD, the inconsistent nature of this Blu-ray release is pretty underwhelming. It has its moments for sure (mainly in the audio) but as a whole I’d call this more bad than good and fans of good clean modern movies who visit the movie for the first time might wonder what the deal is. Saying that, fans should have a lot of positives to take from it even if you'll all know there's still room for improvements. As for the features, there’s nothing all that new and the package (in its many variations) seems a little cobbled together as opposed to feeling like a celebration of the much loved movie.
* Note: The below images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Marcus Doidge
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 6th September 2011
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 English, DTS 2.0 Stereo English, DTS 2.0 Mono Spanish, DTS 2.0 Mono French
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Extras: Making of, Featurettes, U Control PiP
Easter Egg: No
Director: Brian DePalma
Cast: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Genre: Crime and Drama
Length: 170 minutes
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