Scarface is a grandiose modern morality play, excessive, broad and operatic at times. Film’s origins lie in the 1932 Howard Hughes production directed by Howard Hawks and adapted by Ben Hecht from the novel by Armitage Trail. Contours of the saga are very similar to those of the original, as the nearly three-hour effort charts the rise and fall of an ambitious young thug who for awhile becomes the biggest shot in gangsterdom, but ultimately is just too dumb to stay at the top.
Docu prolog recounts how some 25,000 criminals entered the United States in 1980 during the boatlift from Mariel Harbor in Cuba. Among them, per this fiction, was one Tony Montana (Al Pacino), who impresses local Miami kingpin Robert Loggia. Thanks to the fact that he has nerves of steel and ice in his veins, Pacino moves up fast in the underworld and establishes a crucial personal link with Bolivian cocaine manufacturer Paul Shenar.
All this is brought off by scripter Oliver Stone and director Brian De Palma in efficient, sometimes stylish fashion.
Performances are all extremely effective, with Pacino leading the way. Michelle Pfeiffer does well with a basically one-dimensional role as blonde WASP goddess. Shenar is oustanding as the cool, well-bred Bolivian.