The Controversy of Scarface: Celebrating the Cult Classic but for the Wrong Reasons!
December 1st marks the 40th anniversary of Brian DePalma crime thriller, Scarface. This 1983 remake and cult classic starring AL Pacino in one of his most iconic roles since The Godfather, has went on to become this cultural phenomenon...yet in some ways, for the wrong reasons. While the movie portrayed protagonist Tony Montana as a Cuban refugee turned ruthless crime lord who came from rags to riches, at its core, Oliver Stone's screenplay was a cautionary tale about how ambitious goals can destroy you and everyone around you as we witness Montana's rise to power and eventual collapse when Tony despite having acquired wealth and success, has a moment of clarity which began After he gets caught during a RICO bust, and in exchange for a 'slap on the wrist" owes Bolivian Cartel Kingpin Alejandro Sosa a big favor in which he fails to accomplish.
Prior to that, Tony goes on a drunken rant, feeling very disillusioned with his life questioning how the end justifies the means in perhaps one of the best soliloquies in cinema. "Is this what's it's all about.." In a fit of anger, his wife Elvira walks out on him, now fast forward back to the present, after botching up his assigned hit job, Montana discovers that Manny his best friend and Gina, his younger sister is now an item and in a fit of rage or jealousy as there is some speculation about his devotion for his sister, kills Manny. Ironically, Gina and Manny eloped and wanted to surprise Tony, but they should have known better since they were aware of his compulsive anger and obsession. Or maybe it’s the fact that Manny was the catalyst for the sting operation bust. To further compound his dire situation, Tony learns that the "world" is no longer his after he along with Gina, are killed in a standoff against Sosa’s assassins but not before Montana nearly crushing them, while still standing.
"Cocaine is a helluva drug!" Scarface works best as a Machiavellian thriller which somewhat portrays a negative and stereotypical image of the Cuban community. The movie paints a negative picture of Cubans as drug dealers, murderers, while ignoring the reasons why many Cubans fled Cuba in the first place under Fidel Castro’s regime which includes, the abuse of human rights and the suppression of freedom. There was enough backlash which prompted Universal Studios to put out a disclaimer towards the end of the film stating that, there was no intention of besmirching the Cuban American community and to think that the film represents them is “erroneous.”
The movie itself was nothing more than a deconstruction of Tony Montana, he's seen as this ruthless power-hungry gangster, yet he desires the love of his wife and family, who has a degree of loyalty and regardless of his flaws, has a code of honor which prohibited him from killing an activist's family (as in a "no wife-no kids" rule.) which in fact, lead to his downfall and inevitable demise. Yessir, the writing was on the wall as this film had a blatant message that got overlooked by the masses, especially within the urban community which instantly embraced the movie as if it was the best thing since Star Wars!
So why is Scarface celebrated for the wrong reasons? Perhaps the most significant reason is the misconstrued interpretation of its underlying message. The film is intended to critique the American Dream, highlighting the corrupting influence of unbridled ambition and materialism. However, many viewers fail to grasp this critique and instead focus solely on the glamorization of Tony Montana's character. While The film's portrayal of Tony's rise to power resonated with many viewers due to its gritty authenticity, it is important to question whether we should be celebrating a character who achieves success through violence and crime.
Brian DePalma’s Scarface has undeniably left an indelible mark on popular culture, it is crucial for us to question the reasons behind its popularity. By glorifying a character who attains success through violence, materialism, and crime, we inadvertently elevate values that undermine the so-called moral fabric of our society. It is crucial that many fans look beyond the surface and comprehend the deeper message the film aims to convey.