I always considered Scarface to be one of De Palmas lesser achievements, as I saw it as a more impersonal film for him, a film that did not reflect his particular social, psychological and political sensibility. In that sense, I saw it as being in opposition to films such as Hi, Mom!, Blow Out, Snake Eyes, and Femme Fatale.
Well, I was wrong.
I just rewatched this film expecting to see a spectacular, but ultimately somewhat superficial epos. However, not only does De Palma coax what is perhaps a career-best performance out of Pacino, but the movie is wildly entertaining while at the same this serving as a stinging criticism of the Reagan administration’s hypocritical “war on drugs”, which was little more than a PR-campaign and the consruction of an external enemy.
De Palma makes it clear that both police, bankers and politicians are all corrupt, meanwhile using Tony Montana as a scapegoat to illustrate everything that is wrong in America. No wonder the afro-american community has taken this film to heart, as they have experienced this first hand.
Watching Scarface today, it’s easy to forget that the story was contemparary in 1983. The political reality that the movie describes – enormously brutal violence, government corruption at all levels – was happening outside the movie theatres as the movie played out on the screen. No surprise De Palma almost got lynched after this one. The criticism of the Reagan administration and American society was so intense that it was impossible to accept. It was an incredibly ballsy move by De Palma. The satirical critique of capitalism and the American Dream is easily recognizable in this movie as well as in De Palmas filmography as a whole.
Making Dressed To Kill, Blow Out and Scarface back to back over three years? Has any major Hollywood director ever offered a more direct criticism of American society? All while keeping his audience glued to their seats with their eyes wide open.