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Carlito's Way

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Carlito's Way

Starring: Al Pacino, Sean Penn
Director: Brian De Palma
Rated: R
RunTime: 145 Minutes
Release Date: November 1993
Genres: Action, Drama

*Also starring: Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo, Ingrid Rogers, Luis Guzman, James Rebhorn, Joseph Siravo, Viggo Mortensen, Richard Foronjy, Jorge Porcel

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1.  Brian Koller review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie review

Review by Brian Koller
2½ stars out of 4

After the disastrous "Bonfire of the Vanities", director Brian De Palma recovered his career by making a sure-fire, more conventional film: a crime drama starring Al Pacino. While no one will put "Carlito's Way" in the same category as "The Godfather", it is a slightly better film than it has been given credit for. There is much dramatic tension, the presence of Sean Penn adds pathos, and the disco-era soundtrack is good.

"Carlito's Way" is based on the true story of Charlie Brigante. Brigante (Pacino) is a career criminal, released from prison in 1975. He has a deserved reputation as a narcotics kingpin, but tries to go straight upon his release. He runs a disco nightclub, but inevitably events and loyalties pull him back into criminal activity. David Kleinfeld (Penn) is his brilliant but unstable lawyer, Penelope Ann Miller is his girlfriend, Luis Guzman is his bodyguard. John Leguizamo has a small but important part as rising gangster Benny Blanco from the Bronx.

In "Scarface", Pacino was a Cuban gangster. In "Carlito's Way", he is a Puerto Rican gangster. (In a rare moment of comedy, an Italian mobster comments that Pacino 'even looks Italian'.) Pacino is stonefaced throughout, but he has an intense, world-weary coolness that gives him star presence. Sean Penn is well-cast for his character, initially smug but soon decaying into a psychopathic cokehead. Miller is lovely but looks unhappy throughout, adding to the 'onset of doom' feeling that permeates the film. Penn and Miller received Golden Globe nomimations for their performances.

I'll always take a disco soundtrack over a John Williams score, but someone should have told Jellybean Benitez that Cheryl Lynn's hit "Got to Be Real" was from 1979.

The best part of "Carlito's Way" is the dramatic tension. Pacino has to resort to gunplay on several occasions, and admittedly these are the best scenes.

Copyright 1993 Brian Koller

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