Al Pacino has gotten a lot of flack for his portrayal of Carlito Brigante. Yeah, he yells and goes over the top and says lines like “Maybe I don’t remember the last time I blew my nose, so what?!?”, but I really find his portrayal of this reformed Puerto Rican gangster from Corsica to be charming. When the movie opens and Carlito gets out of jail, you think he is immediately going to return to his old life. Then he surprises everyone, including his lawyer Kleinfeld (Sean Penn) by trying to walk the straight and narrow and rekindle his relationship with Gail (Penelope Ann Miller).
Sadly, Brigante’s past is too much a part of his life for him to ever completely get away from it, and he finds himself getting caught up in things that he knows he shouldn’t. It is his sense of loyalty that ultimately puts him in danger, but it is his newfound way of thinking that spells his eventual demise. Having rewatched this movie many times since I saw it in the theater in 1993, I have decided that this film really stands up with many of the other gangster films such as Goodfellas and Scarface.
Brian De Palma on Carlito’s Way and The Making of Carlito’s Way
I loved hearing Brian De Palma talk about this movie. I think he is a bit off base on his assessment of internet critics, but for someone as immersed in the language of film and film history as he is, I can certainly see why he thinks the way he does. “The Making of Carlito’s Way” is a highly in-depth piece that looks at how this movie began as book, then a screenplay and eventually made the leap to the big screen. Edwin Torres is a natural storyteller and I loved hearing his insights on the character and the world of Carlito Brigante. I also loved screenwriter David Koepp’s take on writing these sorts of characters. This “Ultimate Edition” is worth it just for this well done “making of.”
Deleted Scenes, Photo and Poster Gallery and Original Promotional Featurette
My favorite scene of all the ones excised is the first one between Kleinfeld and Carlito. They just seem to be ad-libbing but it really works for these two characters. It is rare that when two actors of equal intensity get together they can pull something like this off, simply because one would think there would be a lot of competition. This isn’t the case here and as a result the scene plays really strongly. The Photo and Poster gallery looks at a bunch of stills taken of the main characters and the director while on the set. The poster gallery shows the posters used to promote the movie and I didn’t remember a lot of them. While I think the silhouetted image of Pacino that they eventually went with was very good, I think there were a few posters that stood on very equal ground. The “Original Promotional Featurette” was made while they were shooting the movie and is more of a “puff” piece than it is anything else.
Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1. This movie really looks well made. Brian De Palma is clearly one of the masters of modern cinema and it’s a shame that he isn’t more appreciated. Everything he does in this movie, if it’s a slow-motion shot, or a certain camera move is all in service of the story that he is telling. My favorite segment is the opening scene with Carlito after he has been shot . Just the way the story is told and how De Palma further explains that the whole movie is actually one second in Carlito’s mind, really engaged me as a viewer. For such a large budget, studio film this was a bold idea, and I appreciate that De Palma didn’t shy away from using black and white to begin this story.
English and French Dolby Digital 5.1. Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono. English DTS 5.1. Subtitled in English, Spanish and French. The sound goes from very meditative, orchestra-type music, to the music of the clubs and streets of New York City, to then tender music that underscores Carlito’s relationship with Gail. While I don’t think there is anything too amazing about the audio (it seems like the images on screen are what really grab you), it does underscore what we are seeing and they give this film a genuine flavor. In fact, if nothing else, I think that the audio really gives this movie a sense of time and place.
With the famous silhouetted photo of Carlito Brigante against a gray backdrop, this cover is very attention grabbing and should interest people who haven’t seen this movie as long as they are fans of gangster films. The back features 3 small shots from the movie, a description of Carlito’s Way, a bonus features list, cast list and some technical specs. This plastic cover is housed in a vinyl, cardboard case that is identical in both front and back covers. I like that there was restraint with this DVD, as it seems like it could have been a 2 disc set but instead they choose to cram everything on one disc. This should also save consumers some money.
This movie has very well done action scenes, very strong character development but most of all it has good dialogue. Carlito’s Way doesn’t shy away from many different facets of people’s lives. Yes, Carlito, Gail, Kleinfeld, Pachanga and Benny Blanco all represent different character types. They all want things out of life and they are all willing to do whatever they have to do to get them. Naturally, the tension in this movie happens when their goals coincide. I didn’t see this when I first screened Carlito’s Way, but this movie is so rich with culture and vitality that I think this upcoming DVD release will help bolster this movie’s place in film history.
I have long held the belief that Carlito Brigante is Tony Montana had he not died at the end of Scarface. I no longer feel that way. Carlito’s Way is very much it’s own film with it’s world and it’s own characters. Regardless of how familiar things may seem, these characters all add something to the mix that makes Carlito’s Way a slower meditation on the persona that is the American gangster.
Carlito's Way was released November 10, 1993.