Tag Archives: Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio

Scarface (1983) 4.43/5 (2)


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Rating: The Good – 79.1
Genre: Crime
Duration: 170 mins
Director: Brian De Palma
Stars: Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer, Steven Bauer

Brian De Palma and Oliver Stone’s reimagining of Howard Hawks’ prohibition-era gangster epic replaces the grime of old Chicago with the neon glitz and kitschy glow of 1980’s Miami and sets the scene for one of the most unique gangster movies of them all. Drop Al Pacino into the lead role of Cuban exile come narcotics trafficking kingpin and you can add “most explosive” to that accolade too. Pacino inhabits the gnarly skin of Tony Montero like few actors could or have as he steels the screen with his presence. An unpredictable concoction of balls to the wall attitude and psychopathic viciousness that bubbles to the boil around five minutes in and continues that way until the movie’s gargantuan close. Though everyone else falls in his frothing wake, there’s a lot of fun in their performances from Tony’s partner and incorrigible ladies-man Steven Bauer, to his reluctant self-hating wife Michelle Pfeiffer, to Robert Loggia’s weak-willed mob boss desperately trying to keep his insanely ambitious young charge on a leash.

Much has been made of this remake’s audacious production design and it’s usually this aspect that most detractors set their sights on. But regardless of criticism, there’s no denying that Scarface is its own film. Moreover, the truth is that, alongside Giorgio Moroder’s amusingly profound score, De Palma’s vision goes so far beyond cheesy that the movie exists in a fascinating kind of hyper-real haze of meta-gangsterism. And as is the case with every one of that director’s 1980’s movies, that’s exactly the point! Scarface isn’t a straight gangster narrative even though its works brilliantly as such, nor is it an action film even though its littered with sublimely staged (not to mention rather grisly) set-pieces that dwarf most of that decade’s best. Scarface is a twisted fairytale of greed and ambition funnelled through the intense personality of one of cinema’s most powerful actors at the height of his powers. Through this vessel, Stone’s crazy but endlessly quotable dialogue bristles with the megalomanic intention of a coke-fuelled tyrant and again, like all De Palma’s movies from around that time, it thus becomes a statement on the state of contemporary cinema itself. That it’s a riveting blast to experience just makes it all the more remarkable.

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The Abyss (1989) 4.29/5 (4)


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Rating: The Good – 75.4
Genre: Science Fiction, Action
Duration: 139 mins
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn

The very definition of a concept film, The Abyss is a different animal to the average sci-fi flick. The story centres on an deep submersible drilling rig that is sequestered by the US Navy when one of their nuclear subs goes missing in a deep trench. Ed Harris plays the head tool-push who has to contend with a trigger happy SEAL unit as well as his pushy ex-wife played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio taking over his rig. The visual effects were spectacular at its time of release and are still hugely impressive while the underwater live action shots have never been equalled. The scale of the film’s production has become the stuff of legend given the giant underwater set that was built in an old missile silo and the extended dives the actors and crew (particularly director James Cameron) underwent to get the hugely impressive action sequences shot. Happily, Cameron gets it all up there on screen, making this one of the most uniquely impressive film experiences. The acting is top drawer for an action film with Harris, Mastrantonio, and Michael Biehn (as the unhinged SEAL commander) all in terrific form. The ending borders on the fluffy (cliched ‘messages’ about world peace and all) as Cameron’s movies sometimes tend to do but one is compelled to forgive it given the earlier technical and dramatic achievements. There’s a somewhat interesting extended cut of this movie that adds nice touches to some of the characters but, given it also turns the volume up on the cheesier elements to the film, those who prefer their messages with a little more depth and finesse may want to give it a miss.

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