Movie Review: Carlito’s Way (1993)

Today’s lesson (which is a repeat of an older lesson): Crime. Don’t commit crimes. Committing crimes is bad. This has been your lesson/PSA for the day.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Carlito’s Way”.

After serving five years in prison, Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) is attempting to sort of reboot his life, escape his old criminal ways and become a good citizen. But that is quite hard when he feels pressure from various people around him. So now we have our crime-drama. And I was quite engrossed by the plot here. On one hand, it subverted my expectations. When it started out, I thought it would go one way, but then it took some turns that I really didn’t expect. And it’s overall a tense and dramatic plot that I found myself quite invested in throughout the entire runtime. It’s more of a character-driven drama rather than a typical gangster-story (though there are elements of that too at times), and I found it to be a damn fine plot.

The characters in this are quite interesting. Sure, a decent amount of them don’t get the most amount of depth, but I found them all working well enough within the movie. Al Pacino plays Carlito Brigante, the man in the title who has some trouble leading a legitimate life. At first he just seems like a smug and charismatic gangster who might go back to his old ways ASAP, but those layers quickly get peeled back and we see that he really means to go legit, to be a good man. And he gets some interesting development throughout. And Pacino is great in the role. Then we have Sean Penn as David, Carlito’s sleazy lawyer. And when I say sleazy I mean that he’s a somewhat dorky, coked out, jerk. And it’s interesting to see him and his interactions with Carlito. And Penn is really good in the role. Then we have Penelope Ann Miller as Gail, an old flame of Carlito, and his love interest for the movie. She’s a highly driven dancer who is a bit split when it comes to Carlito. She is also an important part of Carlito’s arc. And Miller is really good in the role. We also get some really solid supporting turns from people like James Rebhorn, Luis Guzmán, John Leguizamo, Viggo Mortensen, John Ortiz, and more. ’tis a well acted movie.

The score for the movie was composed by Patrick Doyle, and it was really good. What we have here is an emotional, tense, and just overall well composed. It’s a score that fits the movie very well, and often helps elevate a lot of scenes throughout. Not saying that the scenes were bad in general, just that the music added something extra to them. There were also a couple licensed tracks used throughout, and they worked well within their respective scenes.

This movie was directed by Brian De Palma, and he of course did a great job (what else did you expect?). His directing here is tight and intimate while also making it feel a bit bigger than it is. However, compared to “Scarface”, the other De Palma/Pacino crime movie, it’s quite subdued in it’s approach. There is certainly a little bit of action in this, but it’s not quite as extreme as in “Scarface”. Yeah, it’s violent, but it isn’t quite as insane as the stuff in “Scarface”, relying more on pure tension rather than the coked out insanity of that other movie. Speaking of which, De Palma manages to bring out a lot of tension throughout this movie, making you actually kind of fear for Carlito and what might happen.

This movie has been well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 80% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it doesn’t even exist. Roger Ebert gave it 3,5/4 stars. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,9/10.

“Carlito’s Way” is a great crime drama. It has a great plot, good characters, great performances, really good music, and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Carlito’s Way” is a 9,82/10. Which means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Carlito’s Way” is now completed.

Oye como va mi ritmo
Bueno pa’ gozar, mulata

3 thoughts on “Movie Review: Carlito’s Way (1993)

  1. One of the better modern gangster films, along with ‘Donnie Brasco’, and ‘Goodfellas’.
    Always good to see Pacino winding back the shouting and hysteria. ‘Scarface’ is like a comedy by comparison.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  2. An oldie but goodie! I remember running into Sean Penn as they were finishing up and that hairstyle – I remember how me & my friend decided he looked like a creepy molester with it.. oh my! that’s bad. I know. but it fit the role perfectly.

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