Tag Archives: Robert Loggia

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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Jagged Edge (1985) 2.57/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Good – 67.9
Genre: Thriller
Duration: 108 mins
Director: Richard Marquand
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Glenn Close, Peter Coyote, Lance Henriksen

Classy thriller in which Glenn Close plays an attorney charged with defending a charming newspaper editor (Jeff Bridges) on trial for the murder of his wealthy wife. Jagged Edge is a solid traditional thriller driven by a clear story with a solid base and a wealth of acting talent who know how to build on it. Close was reaching the height of her popularity in the mid-80’s and she carries the film with ease. She allows her character’s personal background to constantly colour her courtroom demeanor to the detriment and advantage of her effectiveness as an attorney and it plays brilliantly with the various subplots. Bridges is as excellent as ever in the role of the uncomfortably composed suspect while the always steady Robert Loggia and Peter Coyote are on hand to provide some deeply engaging support. Director Richard Marquand (him who was behind Return of the Jedi) finds just the right balance between the tension and romance and at all times draws on this film’s greatest strength, its writing.

The script is an exercise in the basics of screenwriting as writer Joe Eszterhas (now much maligned but back then a guy with some potential) pillars the drama on a strong heroine, a charming but enigmatic suspect, the inevitable dangerous romance, and a murky history between the lead and the prosecuting district attorney. This sounds simple but in the modern climate of “all-concept-no-basics” film-making where the thriller as a distinct genre is disappearing, it serves as a timely reminder. The courtroom drama which blossoms from this delicious pretext became the textbook example for many subsequent courtroom thrillers from 1987’s Suspect to 1990’s Presumed Innocent while the tone and spirit of the writing came to define late 80′s mainstream cinema on a whole. This isn’t to say this little film was the sole progenitor for the great late 80’s/early 90’s thrillers but it was one of them. So whether you’ve an academic interest in the heyday of the Hollywood thriller or you’re simply in the mood for some entertaining courtroom drama, it’s fair to say Jagged Edge scores on both fronts.

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