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On The Latino Legacy Of ‘Scarface’

Have you ever wondered if it’s weird for Al Pacino to walk down the street, to see himself on jackets, t-shirts, posters, and hats? The image of him isn’t from The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon, or his hoo-hah Oscar winning role in Scent of a Woman. It is him as a coked-up psychopath from his legendary 1983 performance as Tony Montana in Scarface. To say that this movie is iconic is like saying Al’s accent is bad: an understatement.

Scarface is nominally a remake of the 1932 Howard Hawks classic starring Paul Muni as Al Capone. In this version, Scarface is a warm and cuddly– not to mention psychotic and unstable– Cuban drug lord named Tony Montana. Tony leaves Cuba in 1980 in the Mariel boatlift, a moment in history in which Castro took a big dump on Miami by sending thousands of criminals along with the rest of the exiles. Tony and his buddy Manolo (played by Stephen Bauer, the only real Cuban in the movie), decide to get into the lucrative cocaine biz. He soon kills his boss (played by Robert Loggia) and takes over the operation. He even marries his boss’s coca-lovin’ widow, the very lovely Michelle Pfeiffer. Tony becomes increasingly paranoid, likely because of the literal mountains of coke he snorts. His drug-fueled psychosis causes him to kill Manolo, chase away his wife, and causes the death of his sister Gina (played by Marie Elizabeth Mastrantonio and her ‘fro). The film climaxes with Tony dying in a bloodbath after he’s gunned down by a bunch of pissed-off Colombians. De Palma’s final shot is of our dead anti-hero floating in a fountain with his motto, “The World is Yours,” shining above him. Epic, indeed.

Scarface has become part of our cultural fabric, not only as Latinos, but worldwide. Something about this story of coke and extreme violence resonates with people. The hip-hop community in particular has taken a shine to Scarface. In fact, if we were to list every single reference, we’d be sitting here until the end of days. The film also spawned a warehouse full of merchandise, making director Brian DePalma richer than Scrooge McDuck. In addition, Tony Montana is arguably Al Pacino’s most famous role despite (or because of) its over-the-topness. Gone is the subtle menace of Michael Corleone in The Godfather. Instead, Al screams and overacts his way through the film in one of the worst Latino accents in film history. Still, there is no denying Tony Montana’s charms. This movie is so bad ass, if you leave it in a room with your girlfriend, it’ll get her pregnant.

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