“Carlito’s Way” (1993) is a big-budget gangster movie from Brian de Palma. But it’s not quite as engaging as the “Godfather” epics of the 1970s or maybe either some of de Palma’s earlier films (like “Dressed to Kill” (1980) or some comparable films by Scorsese (“Scarface”). It’s long and bloated at 144 minutes.
The film is based on novels by former judge Edwin Torres, who says he wrote out his novels in longhand. (So did J. K. Rowling when she began writing as a welfare mom.) The first screenplay was supposedly a “turkey”. The final adaptation is by David Koeep.
Carlito Brigante is played by a younger and mustachioed Al Pacino. From Puerto Rico, he’d like to have the suave whiteness and social acceptability of a Geraldo Rivera or maybe (in today’s world) Josh Garcia. His rather evil lawyer Dave Kleinfeld, a younger Sean Penn (who shaved back his hairline for the part) gets him out of prison on a technicality before a doubting judge in an opening scene, and Carlito promises to go straight (not literally). Fat chance.
Gradually his associates and girlfriends and Kleinfeld drag him back into the Mafia, with many scenes in the bay around Rikers Island. Kleinfeld is a cokehead, with one scene where be nearly vomits in the bay, as if to invoke Roman Polanski.
Other characters in line are Benny (John Leguizamo) and Gail (Penelope Ann Miller).
When the revengeful elements of the plot send Kleinfeld to the hospital, Carliot pays him a sympathy visit and gives him a lesson in self-defense. It doesn’t do any good. (Torres says that Kleinfeld, murdered by a police imposter in the hospital, survives in the novels.)
The film has a famous shootout in Grand Central station (rather like the bank shootout in the 1996 film “Heat”, also with Pacino) One problem is that I think that the Amtrak train south leaves from Penn Station, which I have been in enough times.
The metaphor at the end, for slipping into Paradise (based on entering a billboard) is a nice rendering of how the afterlife might start.
The movie starts in black-and-white with the final shooting, and returns in color. There is an alternative universe ending where Carlito wore a bullet proof vest.
The script has lots of topical references, like to “Walk on the Wild Side” and in being “Watergated” (maybe now that’s “Russiagated”).
The Mahler-esque score was composed by Patrick Doyle.
|Director, writer:||Brian de Palma|
|When and how viewed:||Netflix DVD, 34 min “making of” included|
(Posted: Wednesday, May 17, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT)