Scarface Movie - A Long Look at an Iconic Movie

RSS

You can buy some fantastic Scarface prints at Canvas Art Rocks and this article takes an in-depth look at the iconic movie Scarface, including famous quotes and scenes.

If someone was to ask you to name a famous movie from the gangster or crime genre, then there is a very strong possibility that you might opt for Scarface. This violent piece of cinema history has become an iconic film of our time despite opening to very negative critical (and public) response when it was first released. It is actually a reboot of an old 1930’s picture of the same name although there has been some major alterations in terms of the characters, the setting and the plot! The film follows Tony Montana, a character largely believed to be based on real life gangster Al Capone. The role is the one that actor Al Pacino is most famous for playing and it is certainly Tony Montana who is the most recognized element of the movie. There is just something about this film that has captured the hearts of generations – whether this is down to the snappy lines of dialogue that everyone can recall or the iconic, if sometimes horrific scene is anybody’s guess. One thing is for sure Scarface is and always will be one of the most iconic movies of all time!

The Cast & Characters of Scarface

Many would say that Scarface was the movie that cemented Al Pacino’s career and watching his performance as Scarface’s lead male Tony Montana it would be difficult to argue otherwise. However, Pacino had already starred in a number a successful movies and secured several Oscar and Golden Globe nominations including the role of Michael Corleone in The Godfather Trilogy. In spite of the fact that Pacino had already cemented himself as a bona fide star before Scarface was released, their can be little doubt that Tony Montana will forever be the role that he is best known for.

What would Tony Montana be without his Elvira? It is a well documented fact that Al Pacino was very resistant to allowing Michelle Pfeiffer to be cast in the role of his love interest Elvira Hancock. At the time, Pfeiffer’s only notable film appearance had been the lead role in box office flop Grease 2. However, producer Martin Bergman saw potential and pushed for her to be cast. The role would prove to be a break out moment for Pfeiffer who has since gone on to enjoy considerable success with leading roles in movies including Batman Returns, Dangerous Minds, The Witches of Eastwick and Dark Shadows.

Of course, Elvira isn’t the only woman in Tony Montana’s life. Montana has what some would term a near incestuous relationship with his ‘kid’ sister Gina. Tony is highly protective of Gina, largely out of guilt that he has not been a good brother too her in the past. He is frequently jealous when Gina garners the attention of men – even when they are friends of Tony’s. The part of Gina is played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in her first big role. She went on to star in many film and tv projects including her portrayal of Maid Marian opposite Kevin Costner in Robin Hood : Prince of Thieves and more recently a recurring role on TV series Grimm.

Every protagonist needs his nemesis and for Tony Montana that would be Bolivian drug lord Alejandro ‘Alex’ Sosa played by Paul Shenar. Scarface was very much the first major film role for Shenar who had spent most of the 70’s in small tv series and made for tv movie roles. Following his portrayal of Sosa he became a recurring cast member on Dynasty and featured in a number of films including Raw Deal and Man on Fire.

A complete list of the main cast of Scarface can be found below :

  • Tony Montana – Al Pacino
  • Manny Ribera – Steven Bauer
  • Elvira Hancock – Michelle Pfeiffer
  • Gina Montana – Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
  • Frank Lopez – Robert Loggia
  • Mama Montana – Miriam Colon
  • Omar Suarez – F. Murray Abraham
  • Alejandro Sosa – Paul Shenar
  • Mel Bernstein – Harris Yulin
  • Chi Chi – Angel Salazar
  • Ernie – Arnaldo Santana
  • Angel – Pepe Serna
  • Nick The Pig – Michael P. Moran
  • Hector The Toad – Al Israel
  • Jerry The Banker – Dennis Holahan

What is Scarface Actually About? : A Brief Synopsis

Scarface is such an iconic piece of cinema, that you would find it very difficult to find someone who has not heard of it. However, even if people have heard of the movie they may not actually have seen it and may not be sure of what it is actually about. With that in mind, let’s take a brief look at the synopsis of the film to give those who haven’t seen it a rough idea of what to expect.

In short, Scarface is a crime drama that tells the story of Cuban refugee Tony Montana who arrives in Miami in 1980 and quickly becomes involved with the Cuban Mafia and becomes a powerful drug lord. His life spirals out of control as he becomes addicted to the cocaine he is distributing and he meets a violent and untimely end. A more detailed synopsis can be found below.

WARNING! – Spoilers Ahead

Scarface is set in 1980 and sees Cuban immigrant Tony Montana arrive in Florida in search of the fabled ‘ American Dream’. Unfortunately for Montana when he arrives and claims asylum in the United States, the INS officials interviewing him recognise a tattoo on his arm that marks him as a known hitman and detain him in camp ‘Freedomtown’ alongside his friend Manny while their visa applications are reviewed. The pair spend a month at the camp before Manny is approached by the Cuban Mafia who ask that they kill a former aide to Fidel Castro who is also in the camp in exchange for their Green Cards. Tony carries out the task during a riot and secures the paperwork for himself and Manny.

The pair find work as dishwashers in a taco joint, but are soon tracked down by Frank Lopez – the man behind the hit performed in exchange for their Green Cards. Lopex offers them a job unloading an incoming drugs shipment; however, Tony turns him down saying they are not paying enough and soon arranges an alternative job accompanying Angel and ChiChi collecting two kilos of cocaine from a Columbian drug dealer (Hector the Toad). The job does not go to plan as Hector attempts to double cross Tony and steal the cocaine. In an attempt to prompt Tony into handing over the money Hector dismembers Angel with a chainsaw in one of the films most iconic scenes! However, Manny and ChiChi save Tony from a similar fate. Tony goes after Hector shooting him dead in the street. Lopez is impressed and quickly hires Tony into the Cuban Mafia where he quickly begins to rise through the ranks of Miami’s underground drugs trade.

Tony meets and falls for Lopez’s girlfriend Elvira. Eventually Tony goes out on his own leaving Lopez behind. This also leaves Tony free to pursue Elvira. This leads to a great deal of tension, ultimately ends with Tony killing Lopez. Meanwhile Manny gets into a relationship with Tony’s sister Gina much to Tony’s disgust. Tony is very overprotective of his sister to the point of obsession. As his business becomes more successful Tony grows increasingly paranoid as his addiction to cocaine spirals out of control. Gradually the world and lifestyle that Tony has built for himself begins to crumble around him ending with the final scene in which we see Tony dead – face down in a pool.

Critical & Popular Reception

Today, Scarface is considered to be one of the best films of all time. However, this was not always the case. When the movie was first released in 1981 it faced some harsh critiscism over its use of frequent strong language, the hard drug use and what some felt was an excessive use of graphic violence. In addition to this, a large percentage of Miami’s Cuban population felt that the film portrated them as stereotypical criminals and drug traffickers. It was one of those movies that people either loved or hated. Despite the fact that it was panned by the critics – or perhaps because of it – Scarface went on to become a box office smash! The film grossed $65.8 million making it the 16th highest grossing movie of the year and the 7th highest grossing R-Rated film of 1983.

Rumour has it that film director Martin Scorsese pulled Scarface director Steven Bauer aside after the premier and congratulated him, but not Bauer took this to mean that the key message of his film was that when chasing the American Dream, if you get too greedy it will crumble beneath you – and when we think about it isn’t that exactly what happened to Tony Montana? Scorsese may have been right, because critics and Hollywood insiders were quick to tear the film to shreds labeling it as an ‘overblown B movie’ and accused it of “wallowing in excess and unpleasantness for nearly three hours’! The film ended up succeeding at the box office but soon faded into obscurity, seemingly doomed to be forgotten!

It wasn’t until the mid nineties that Scarface began to resurface in our collective consciousness. Steven Bauer says that he first noticed that while watch MTVs Cribs show, an increasing number of rappers were using Scarface movie posters in their home décor. Soon after that, quotes from the movie started to appear in other contexts – most notably the favorite ‘say hello to my little friend’ line. Nowadays it is the subject of much more positive reviews from directors, screenwriters and movie goers alike. It has now considered to be a classic film a point which is highlighted by the way that it has become ingrained into our society thanks to an abundance of cultural references that can be seen in books, television, video games and more! Many would say that Scarface was simply ahead of its time!

Top 5 Scenes From Scarface

Scarface is a film which is jam packed with iconic scenes and memorable dialogue. We have put together our top 5 scenes below along with a brief outline of why we think they are key moments in the movie. Some of these are included in the list because they are completely shocking. Others are included because they really express the key points of the film and others simply had to be included because they are the most memorable parts of the film. Please be aware that the following clips may contain graphic violence and strong language.

1 – The Chainsaw Scene

Perhaps the most infamous scene in the entire film is the horrifying ‘Chainsaw Scene’. As a drug deal with the Colombians turns bad Tony Montana is forced to watch as Angel is tied to a shower rod and dismembered with a chainsaw. It is only the arrival of Manny and ChiChi that saves Tony from meeting the same fate. The scene is harrowing to watch despite the fact that none of the dismemberment is ever shown on screen. Instead, through the clever use of implied violence the audience is forced to imagine what Tony must be seeing. There is plenty of blood splattered around the bathroom walls and the continuous drone of the chainsaw adds to the drama, but it is Al Pacino’s face that truly sells the scene. Watching the sickened expressions on his face and the look of genuine terror in his eyes as he fights to turn his head away it is all too easy for us to imagine what it would be like to witness such a horrific act.

Interestingly, in order to secure a R rating instead of a X rating for Scarface a solitary shot was cut from the film – this was a single shot of Angel’s dismembered arm hanging from the shower rod after the murder. One of the things that really drives home the graphic violence of the scene is the way that it is juxtaposed with the external shots. As we are watching Tony being forced to witness his friend brutal torn to pieces in a dingy hotel bathroom, the scene is cut with shots of Manny and ChiChi flirting with scantily clad women outside in the bright Miami sunshine totally unaware of the horrors unfolding in the hotel room. Few horror films have ever managed to capture a similar feeling of genuine terror on film and rumour has it that several high profile Hollywood names actually walked out of the premier during the scene. Aside from being one of the most shocking movie scenes of its time, the scene also makes our top 5 list becasue it shows Tony’s vulnerable side. For all his bluster and bravado he still found it very difficult to watch the slaughter with the Columbians forcefully holding his head in place to stop him looking away. Underneath it all Tony is a normal guy just looking for his place in the world and who has been swept away by events beyond his control.

2 – Say Goodnight To The Bad Guy

In this scene Elvira finally reaches her breaking point and leaves Tony. This prompts Tony to enter into a drunken rant directed towards the other diners in the restaurant. He shines a light on their hypocrisy by telling them that although they look at him as the bad guy at least he is being honest about who he is. He accuses the onlookers of hiding and tells them that they need people like him so that they can point and say that he is the bad guy and they are not. Tony Montana came to America in pursuit of the American dream. In some twisted way he found it – after all here he is married to a beautiful woman, living a lavish lifestyle with more money than he could ever need. He is essentially a self made man having come to the United States with nothing. However, none of it has brought him happiness and this scene is highlighting the fact that the American Dream comes at a price. Martin Scorcese is said to have warned director Brian De Palma that Hollywood would hate him because the film was about them and in this scene it is easy to see what he meant. It leaves us questioning whether or not Tony Montana truly is the ‘bad guy’ in this story. We have seen on multiple occasions that he is not as violent or as bad as many of the other people he comes into contact with. Could it be a case of his life having sprialled out of his own control in his eternal search for his American Dream?

3 – Say Hello To My Little Friend

We couldn’t have a list of the top scenes in Scarface without including the most recognised line in the movie. Even people who have not seen Scarface are able to quote this line from memory! In this scene, Gina has just died and Sosa’s men are storming Tony’s mansion. Tony has nobody left and faces his assailants alone. The scene illustrates just how far Tony has fallen. A combination of the excessive drug use and the gradual destruction of everyone that Tony has loved or trusted has sent him spiralling into madness. On seeing Sosa’s men blast through his compound with relative ease, Tony arms himself with an assault rifle with a grenade launcher attachment and opens fire through his office door while screaming the immortal line ‘say hello to my little friend’. He rains machine gun fire on Sosa’s men while taking multiple hits himself, but remains standing. However, Sosa’s henchman ‘The Skull’ has crept up behind him and shoots him point blank with a double barrelled shot gun. Tony falls into the pool below and is seen in the final scene floating face down beneath the words ‘ The World is Yours’. This symbolic death is a stark warning about the price of chasing the American Dream.

4 – Gina Shoots Tony

Tony is over protective of his sister Gina to the point of obsession. He does not want any man to have her and goes so far as to murder his best friend for being with her. Gina is distraught over Manny’s death and in this scene she enters Tony’s office and taunts him about how he has always wanted her sexually and that’s why he didn’t want another man to have her. She starts shooting at him and manages to get him in the leg. Neither of them are aware that a hitman is on Tony’s balcony. He bursts in and starts shooting with Gina getting caught in the crossfire. Tony kills the hitman before returning to Gina and trying to comfort her despite the fact that she is already dead. He begs her forgiveness and tells her that he loves her. This scene is another which highlights Tony’s deep feelings for Gina. He is devastated by her death and has lost yet another important person in his life. Ultimately he is guilty that it was him who got Gina involved in this lifestyle and that he has once again let her down.

5 – Tony Kills Manny

From the outset of the film, Manny and Tony are best friends. They arrived together from Cuba, entered the detainment camp together, started work for the Mafia together and never leave one another’s side. However, if there is one aspect of his life that Tony will not share with Manny it is his baby sister Gina. When Manny first expresses an interest in Gina, Tony is quick to nip it in the bud. However, unbeknownst to Tony the pair still embark on a relationship and end up getting married in secret while Tony is off on a mission. The day after the wedding, Tony calls on Manny and as he answers the door Gina appears at the top of the stairs wearing only a robe. It is clear that Manny has slept with Gina and this sends Tony into a rage causing him to shoot Tony. Gina then reveals that they had gotten married and were planning on surprising Tony. This particular scene is key because it is the first time that the audience are really confronted with the depth of Tony’s obsession with his sister. Tony is overprotective of Gina largely out of his own shame at not being there for his sister when she was growing up. However, many critics have noted that Tony’s obsession often takes on a sexual overtone as well. In this moment we see how deep that obsession goes, with Tony willing to murder his best friend with no hesitation.

Famous Lines From Scarface

When a movie becomes truly iconic, famous lines from the script find their way into popular culture and are often used in day to day conversation! This is something that is certainly true of Scarface – in fact, there are hundreds of people who will actually regularly recite lines from the movie who have not even seen it! The movie has simply become so popular that even the classic lines of dialogue have become pop culture references in their own right. With that in mind, we have put together our top ten most memorable lines from Scarface.

Scarface Quotes:

 

  • “I always tell the truth. Even when I lie!” – Tony Montana
  • “Say hello to my little friend!” – Tony Montana
  • “Every day above ground is a good day.” – Mel Bernstein
  • “Say goodnight to the bad guy!” – Tony Montana
  • “Don’t call me Baby! I’m not your Baby.” – Elvira Hancock
  • “Here’s the story. I come from the gutter. I know that. I got no education… but that’s okay. I know the street, and I’m making all the right connections. With the right woman, there’s no stopping me. I could go right to the top.” – Tony Montana
  • “Don’t get high on your own supply.” – Elvira Hancock
  • “In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women!” – Tony Montana
  • “I got ears, ya’ know. I hear things.” – Tony Montana
  • “All I have in this world is my balls and my word, and I don’t break ’em for no one – Do you understand?!” – Tony Montana

Scarface Quotes

You will note that most of the most memorable lines are delivered by Tony Montana which is a testament to just how iconic the character is – largely down to Al Pacino’s portrayal of the character!

5 Things You Might Not Know About Scarface

When a movie becomes as iconic as Scarface has, people often feel that they know everything about it! However, there are some interesting things that you might not know about the film. Check out our favourite 5 pieces of little known Scarface trivia!

  1. Al Pacino initially rejected the idea of Michelle Pfeiffer as his leading lady! She was not very well known at the time – her only major role having been in Grease 2. Pacino on the other hand was a fairly big name in Hollywood and he was not convinced that Pfeiffer was the woman for the job. However, producer Martin Bregman was keen to offer her the role and overruled Pacino. Scarface became Pfeiffer’s breakout movie and it is difficult to imagine anyone else in the role of Elvira Hancock! Al Pacino has brushed off questions about his reservations regarding Pfeiffer – often claiming not to remember saying such a thing, but agreeing good naturedly that it does sound like something he is likely to have said!
  1. Al Pacino is largely credited with suggesting that it was time for a remake of Scarface after seeing a showing of the original 1932 film ‘Scarface: The Shame of the Nation’ at the Tiffany Theater on Los Angeles’ Sunset Boulevard. After seeing Paul Muni starring in the Howard Hughes movie he immediately got in touch with Martin Bergman to suggest a modern remake. Even then Pacino had his heart set on playing Tony Montana – although rumour has it that Robert De Niro was the first choice and turned down the role!
  1. There is a great deal of strong language throughout Scarface, and the excessive use of certain words got one of the actors into some hot water with his mother! F. Murray Abraham played the role of Omar Suarez in Scarface and his Italian mother was not pleased at the foul language used. Abraham revealed years after release that after his mother saw the movie for the first time she pulled him aside and told Murray that he needed to tell Al Pacino not to use that language as it reflected poorly on his fellow Italians. Although Murray assured her that it was all in the script she was adamant that as a big star Al did not need to talk that way! Her concerns were fairly justified given that the cast actually drop the ‘F bomb’ a total of 226 times – that’s 1.32 uses per minute of the entire movie!
  1. As we touched on earlier, Scarface was initially given a X rating. However, Brian De Palma made the necessary cuts to secure a R rating by removing the severed arm shot from the chainsaw scene as discussed above. However, the MPAA made him do a further 2 rounds of cuts before approving its release. Initially more edits were requested, but De Palma refused and met with a tribunal who voted 18 to 2 that the 3rd cut could be released as an R rated film. However, De Palma was not content and believed that the 1st cut should have been judged an R anyway and so that was the version he submitted to theaters for release! It wasn’t until the movie made it onto video after its theater run that he admitted his trick!
  1. Never let it be said that Al Pacino is not willing to suffer for his art! During filming on Scarface the Hollywood star actually suffered from 2 fairly serious injuries. The first was a fairly deep cut which was caused by a stray piece of glass flung at him by Michelle Pfeiffer during her screen test. She was asked to throw some dishes around and after being told to cut she noticed blood everywhere. Everyone assumed she had cut herself, but it turned out it was actually Pacino who had sustained the injury. Pfeiffer jokes that this was the turning point that convinced Pacino that she really was his Elvira! A second, more serious injury was sustained while shooting the ‘Say Hello To My Little Friend’ scene. Pacino accidentally grabbed the barrel of his guns and ended up severely burning his hand and was forced to stop filming for around 2 weeks while his wounds healed!

Was Scarface Ahead of Its Time?

When talking about the critical (and public) reception of the Scarface movie we saw that it was not particularly well received. In fact, it did not gain any real popularity until the 1990’s – almost a decade after it was first released and now almost 30 years later it is considered to be something of a cult classic! So was Scarface a movie which was simply ahead of its time?

At its release most people simply found Scarface to be over the top, unnecessarily violent and quiet simply trashy! The Cuban community felt it promoted negative stereotypes and audiences in general just felt that that the movie was too gaudy and camp. However, it also had an undeniable energy and it is that energy that has help Tony Montana’s story to endure. As the decade progressed it became increasingly clear that director Brian De Palam and writer Oliver Stone were in fact on to something! With the benefit of hindsight Scarface was a prediction of what was to come – as the 1990’s came and went we saw the rise of excessive consumerism and an explosion of reality TV fuelled egomania! It became clear that the film was simply ahead of it’s time!

By the mid 90’s, Scarface had found itself a brand new audience and it was one which truly appreciated the now iconic piece of cinema. The hip hop culture embraced Tony Montana as one of their own. For up and coming stars like Snoop Dogg and his peers Scarface was able to capture what it was like to be an outsider fighting to the top. The vulgar displays of wealth and the need to have a beautiful woman at your side were something the hip hop generation could identify with – it was important to amass whatever you could because you never knew when it would all end – perhaps in a violent way just like Tony Montana. If you watched MTV in the 90’s you may have noticed that every rapstar on Cribs had a frames Scarface poster in their home!

The truth is, that as much as we might hate to admit it – Scarface captured the true spirit of the ‘American Dream’ in all its dark and twisted glory! Tony Montana is the ultimate anti-hero. He is on the surface the ultimate bad guy, but you cannot help but respect the fact that he has come to the United States with nothing and worked his way to the top. We are forced to ask ourselves what is more important – making it to the top, or how you do it?

The Stars of Scarface : Where Are They Now?

So it’s been more than 30 years and Scarface has endured. From humble beginnings it has become one of the most popular films of all time! But how have the stars of this cult classic faired over the past 3 decades? Let’s take a look at where they are now!

  • Al Pacino was already a big name in Hollywood when he played Tony Montana, but many feel that it is the role that defined his career. Pacino has worked consistently since then putting out an average of 2 movies every year. At the grand age of 74, he is showing no signs of hanging up his acting boots. In 2014, you can expect to see him in three new releases – The Humbling, Manglehorn and Danny Collins.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer owes a lot to Scarface. She was a relative unknown at the time and her portrayal of Elvira Hancock catapulted her to stardom. Now in her fifties, Pfeiffer has a solid career putting out approximately one movie a year, the most recent of which was 2013 Mafia picture The Family in which she co-starred with Robert De Niro.
  • Steve Bauer played Tony’s ill fated best friend Manny and has had limited success since then. He does have a steady stream of TV roles and video game voiceover credits under his belt and has just wrapped up a couple of movies due for release late 2014 and early 2015.
  • Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio will perhaps always be best known for playing Tony’s sister Gina, but she did manage to secure a whole string of movie credits after Scarface perhaps most notably Maid Marian to Kevin Costner’s Robin in Prince of Thieves. She then switched to television and has enjoyed recurring roles on many big tv series including Without a Trace and Law & Order. These days Mary can be seen as a series regular on supernatural police procedural Grimm.

In conclusion, Scarface is one movie that simply cannot be ignored! Despite getting off to a rocky start and debuting to terrible reviews it did manage some degree of success at the box office. No-one could have predicted that it would enjoy a renewed interest ten years later or that it would be the cult classic that it is now 30 years after it was originally released. Few movies have managed to saturate pop culture the way that Scarface has. Tony Montana’s ravaged face adorns products of every description and people everywhere will quote him at any given opportunity. Is Scarface a violent and over the top depiction of Cuban immigrants? Of course it is, but that doesn’t stop watching it from being a fantastic way to spend a few hours! Scarface has become a symbol for the outsiders of chasing the American Dream. I think Montana himself sums it up perfectly – ‘first you get the money, then you get the power and then you get the women.’ The popularity of Scarface is something that looks like it will endure for many years to come. It seems we are just not ready to ‘say goodnight to the bad guy’!

Previous Post Next Post

  • Robin Webster
Comments 0
Leave a comment
Your Name:*
Email Address:*
Message: *

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.

* Required Fields