One of Brian de Palma's earliest pieces of work, Scarface has become something of a cult classic in recent years. Telling the story of Tony Montana (played by Al Pacino) - a small-time hoodlum with big ambitions - we meet him and his friends as they arrive on American soil seeking asylum from Cuba; young, dumb but possessing a hunger for power, he quickly sets about making a name for himself.
After successfully performing a hit for a drug king-pin, suddenly Montana and his best friend (Manolo Ray - played by Steven Bauer) find themselves promoted and beginning to cut their teeth in a serious business where guns and cocaine seem to go hand-in-hand with chainsaws. Thereupon Montana - a charismatic and single-minded individual - manages to carve a bigger and bigger slice of the pie, stealing not only his bosses business but also his mistress (Elvira - played by a very young-looking Michelle Pfeiffer), who eventually becomes his wife. At the top of his game, Montana monopolises his drug empire and it seems that no-one can stand in his way. But just as the money piles up, so does the catalogue of sins, and as Montana descends into a drug-addled spiral of paranoia, his world begins to crumble around him...
Scarface is a classic tale of power and greed gone mad - of a poor, yet hungry character with no morals or conscience to rein him in. As such, Pacino is perfect for the part and plays Montana with gusto, his famous slow-burn manic streak apparent even here. The supporting cast is also good - especially Bauer - though pretty much everyone else is relegated to the background as Pacino commands the screen.
The main problem is that - whilst still regarded highly by many - in many ways Scarface hasn't aged well. It doesn't stand up to the competition for one - i.e The Godfather (especially the first two parts) or Goodfellas or even Casino, and it just feels so very dated, whereas a movie such as The Godfather almost has a timeless quality about it.
Not only that, but the pacing is a little slack at times and though we get the full picture of Montana's rise and subsequent downfall, one can't help but feel that the movie is overlong and disjointed, and lacking wholly in any emotion. When the climactic shootout finally arrives, there's no excitement or fear for our main character, and you have to ask yourself: Do you really care if he lives or dies?
What saves Scarface - and indeed makes it worth watching - is Pacino's performance. Fans of his will undoubtedly enjoy this showcase for him, but everyone else need not apply, for this is an overrated piece of ageing cinema.