Al Pacino's Tony Montana is the driving force in this chainsaws-and-all story of the cocaine mafia. We follow his rise to absurd criminal wealth and paranoia out of thousands of immigrants arriving in Florida in 1980s 'Cuban crimewave' (the film's words). Not the definitive film of the 80s but a definitive coke movie, the decade's drug of choice.
From an Oliver Stone script that allows for no tedium, Brian De Palma guides us from real footage of Castro and boatloads of refugees to the pure fantasy of the film's heavy artillery finale. Loaded with memorable lines ("Say hello to my leetle friend") but flawed by a zombie movie soundtrack; Giorgio Moroder's synthwork is as bereft of feeling as Montana himself in its nullifying effect.
A young Michelle Pfeiffer has little to do in a relationship less sexually charged than that between Montana and his sister (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), but unsurprisingly for a Stone-scripted film, the boys have all the fun - notably, Robert Loggia's groveling counterpoint to Pacino, and Harris Yulin's naughty narc. A tribute to Hawks and Hecht, the director and writer behind the 1932 classic of the same name, ends the film, but this is very much a film of the 80s in its portrayal not of moral decline (there is little declining left to do) but of unstoppable ego-centrism. With guns.
"Scarface" is on BBC2 at 10.35pm, Saturday 10th February 2001.