Ten years after Scarface (1983), Pacino and director Brian De Palma reunited here for another crime-doesn’t-pay drama.
Carlito Brigante is a Puerto Rican assassin and drug dealer (although Pacino seems as Puerto Rican as Doris Day) from the East Harlem barrio who, after five years of a 30-year sentence in prison, gets out on appeal in 1975 and plans to go straight on a beach in the Bahamas.
All he needs is $75,000 to retire with his naughty-but-nice stripper and would-be ballerina girlfriend, Gail (Penelope Ann Miller) and buy a rental-car agency.
To get the money, he joins his cocaine-addicted shyster lawyer Dave Kleinfeld (Sean Penn, pictured at right) in a plot to break another goon out of Riker’s Island on the lawyer’s yacht.
Carlito finds himself a deadly pawn between the crooks in the D.A.’s office and the crooks on the street – particularly a scuzzy rat called “Benny Blanco From the Bronx” who eventually leads a final shootout in Grand Central Station.
De Palma’s visual flair comes into its own in the seedy clubs and backstreet dives of New York, and the set pieces – a poolroom fight, a 15-minute subway chase and shenanigans on a train station escalator – are among the most thrilling De Palma has ever filmed, while Pacino’s restrained performance as the leather-clad, gently lisping Carlito allows plenty of scope for the supporting cast to chew the scenery.
But the thing which gives Carlito’s Way most of its emotional impact is the tragic sense and weight of hard experience that always shows in Pacino’s face. It’s the face of a man weary of seeing too much death.
There’s simply no actor better suited to the role of the street-smart survivor, trying to keep his act together for one last score.
Penelope Ann Miller
Battaglia (Big Guy)
Brian De Palma