Single Person’s Movie: Scarface

It’s 2 a.m. and you awake with a jerk, alone in your fully lit apartment and still on the couch.

It’s 2 a.m. and you awake with a jerk, alone in your fully lit apartment and still on the couch. On TV, the credits of some movie you’ve already seen a billion times are scrolling by. It feels like rock bottom. And we know, because we’re just like you: single.

Need a movie to keep you company until you literally can’t keep your eyes open? Join us tonight when we pass out to Scarface [starting @ 11:50 p.m. on Starz in Black]

Why we’ll try to stay up and watch it: The news yesterday that Al Pacino agreed to play an aging and exiled Napoleon Bonaparte for an adaptation of the children’s book Betsy and the Emperor is something that could only be met with rolling eyes. (The Hollywood Reporter headline “Bonaparte of a lifetime for Pacino” didn’t help matters either.) Mr. Pacino is long past his expiration date of relevance, and with each passing credit he drops further down the rabbit hole. If you think we’re being harsh, consider that he’s also signed up to play King Lear and King Herod in upcoming features; we can only assume that financing for a King Solomon project has yet to materialize.

Obviously, it didn’t always used to be like this. Seeing “Al Pacino” on a movie poster carried weight up until 1999. But then something seemed to change inside the man. To illustrate the problem with Mr. Pacino’s last 10 years takes some deft needle-threading, but we’ll try it anyway: The diminutive star, even in his most-lauded performances, was always broad and grandiose … but he never seemed bored. Consciously or unconsciously, he appeared to be the only purveyor of the Strasberg Method who realized its inherent cheese and took glee in playing to those aspects; now he’s just going through the motions. That’s what makes his bombastic performance in Scarface such a winner. Mr. Pacino is so invested in turning Tony Montana into the most opulent character ever—right down to the laughable accent choice—that he elevates him to an almost transcendent level. He has fun reveling in his most base instincts as an actor.

If Mr. Pacino’s performance gets an “A” for “Are You Serious?”, the rest of Scarface does not. A funny thing about this neo-classic: it’s relatively crappy. The film is a rambling mess of homage and tired gangster clichés. Oliver Stone famously wrote the script, and there are plenty of times when it feels like the quintessential Oliver Stone film—overwrought, overlong and overcooked—though since Brian De Palma is the director, no one should expect anything less. Directors like Zack Snyder and McG bow down at his alter; Mr. De Palma is truly King of the Hacks.

When we’ll probably fall asleep: A good thing about Scarface’s lack of congruous cinematic quality is that it becomes perfect for needle dropping. So we’ll flip around to ESPN and the MLB Network, until about 1:50 a.m., two hours into the film. After leveling another round of stomach-turning verbal abuse onto his coke-obsessed bride, whilst in public (“Her womb’s so polluted, I can’t even have a fucking little baby!”), Tony pontificates to the onlookers and admonishes their lack of cujones. We only wish Mr. Pacino would take Tony’s slurred words to heart; before he rides off into the sunset for good, we’d like one last chance to “say goodnight to the bad guy.” Playing Napoleon in a kids movie just won’t suffice. Single Person’s Movie: Scarface