Scarface Is Back


Written by Tshepo Mokoena
04 Sunday 04th September 2011

When a film gets remade, people often hold their breath and expect the worst. In this case, director Brian De Palma just took the grit and violence of the original 1932 version of Scarface and upped the brutal ante. The first script, all vague gang glorification and booze smuggling, looks pretty tame in comparison to the cocaine wars of Miami and infamous chainsaw scene that's made people sick enough to just walk right out of the film's premiere in 1983. Al Pacino, Steven Bauer and Robert Laggio were just some of the film's original stars who took to a red carpet to usher in the Blu-Ray era for the film. Given the general disgust at the quality of the very first DVD release (grainy, soft-focus anyone?) fans of the blood-fest will be happy to hear that this disc set also features its own documentary, The Scarface Phenomenon. It's, you know, about how the film has become an institution and phenomenon in its own right.

F Murray Abraham, Pacino, Baggio, Bauer & producer Bergman

Producer Martin Bregman was at the premiere, stating "It's a perfect film. He [Pacino] moved me. The first time I saw him on stage he just moved me", most likely articulating views any die-hard fan would agree with. Just as delighted was Ludacris, who quoted Montana as one of his influences. Interestingly, as incongruous as it might initially seem, the rapper's presence at the event looks to be part of a bigger bond between hip hop culture and this particular gangster film. The cult classic has seemed to impact on the genre more than others and become nearly synonymous with any rapper's favourite film (as a standard episode of MTV Cribs from the early noughties might reveal).

Scarface's incredible album art for his take on "The World Is Yours" as an album

Official footage from the Blu-Ray premiere night is soundtracked with a bouncy, polished beat that most likely comes from Ludacris himself but could be the product of just about any new American rap artist from the last five years. The film's glorification of gangster culture metered with lessons learned from never dipping into your own drug supply have been alluded to and directly quoted in everything from rap album skits and samples, to one artist straight up just naming himself Scarface (above).

Raekwon and Jay-Z have both used Scarface soundbites in song intros, and Nas even went so far as to base most of his "The World Is Yours" video on scenes from the film. Named after Tony Montana's gaudy statue, Nas' single (from his debut album) set him up for telling the rags to riches story that tends to resonate so well with MCs starting out in the music world. Montana's background as an impoverished ex-con Cuban who turns into a millionaire looks pretty attractive to an industry founded on giving a voice to an ill-represented minority with strong material ambition.

Though Oliver Stone's script from the eighties film may be unchanged, the way it will be interpreted by various subcultures is pretty awesome to look into. How do you reckon this film has affected or influenced you?

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