Scarface: Limited Edition Steelbook (Blu-ray Review)

In the spring of 1980, the Mariel boatlift brought thousands of Cuban refugees to the sun-washed avenues of Miami in search of the American dream. From acclaimed director Brian DePalma, Scarface is the rags-to-riches story of Tony Montana (Al Pacino), who finds wealth, power and passion beyond his wildest dreams…at a price he never imagined. Tony Montana’s meteoric rise, lavish life and soul-destroying fall, are the elements of the film have that inspired a worldwide following and changed the fortunes of the movie from a mediocre box office under-performer into a phenomenon. The role of Tony Montana gave Pacino one of his most memorable roles as he blasts his way to the top of Miami’s drug underworld in a bravura performance.



Brian DePalma’s Scarface is a remake of Howard Hawk’s original movie and an ode to excess in every way imaginable.  The violence is more excessive than it needs to be, the acting (while excellent), is over the top and melodramatic, and the tale of Tony Montana (Al Pacino) is presented as rags to riches story albeit a twisted version of the American Dream.  The years since this movie was released to mediocre financial and critical success have mythologized both the movie and the character of Montana himself.  Now, Montana is everywhere – on t-shirts, key-chains, boxer shorts, toys, belt buckles, video games, ties, and more.  Montana has also seemingly inspired rappers to include lyrics about him in their songs as well as copy his aesthetic taste in their videos and home decor.  After watching the movie finally for the first time, all I can ask is why?

Tony Montana is a vicious psychotic thug whose only redeeming quality is that he refuses to kill children.  He has no problem killing others for any reason, or even his closest friends, but even Montana does draw the line there.  While watching this movie, an impromptu commentary occurred between myself and the bulk of the Why So Blu staff who put on the movie after learning I was watching it.  I must add a disclaimer that every one of them loves this movie. Some of them even think that Montana is a great man which completely baffles me since all he does is kill everyone blocking his way to the top of a gang.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s start at the beginning first…

The movie opens with some newsreel footage of the Cubans that Fidel Castro has kicked out of Cuba which included around 25,000 criminals mixed in with the refugees.  This collection of people were basically interned in camps under the freeways in Miami while the authorities processed their paperwork for green cards.  Montana (one of the criminals) and his closest friend Manny (Steven Bauer) and their lackeys bide their time in the camp as they wait for their green cards.  Patience is not one of Montana’s virtues and once word reaches him a drug dealer named Frank (Robert Loggia) has put a hit out on a recent arrival to the camp and that green cards await whoever kills him, Montana gathers his men together to execute this once powerful man.

Rewarded with green cards for their brutality, Montana and the gang get jobs that they feel are beneath them. When one of Frank’s associates named Omar (F. Murray Abraham) offers the duo a job to buy cocaine from some Colombians they are faced with a decision to either continue working at a roadside diner or deal in drugs, the two take the easier yet riskier path.  Unfortunately, they are double-crossed by the Colombians which results in a violent scene involving a chainsaw which gave the movie it’s notoriety at the time of its release.  This debacle makes two things clear about Montana…he would rather die than help the Colombians and that he has no hesitation in killing people in broad daylight in front of a crowd full of people.

Suspecting a set up, Montana and what’s left of his Cuban posse deliver the drugs and the money to Frank directly since they don’t trust Omar at all.  Frank likes Montana’s style and hires him on the spot.  Frank’s larger than life persona and his trappings of wealth impress Montana, but what really catches his eye is Frank’s girlfriend Elvira (Michelle Pfieffer).  It isn’t long that he begins to covet her as much as he does Frank’s position and wealth.  Time goes on and Montana starts making some serious money but it’s never enough for the greedy man.  As he says, “I want the world… and everything in it,” and he refuses to accept anything less.  After waiting until he had a lot of money to impress his relatives with before returning to visit his mother and his sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), he quickly discovers that his mother isn’t impressed by his money because she knows he earned it through evil deeds.  Gina however, is just happy to see him and doesn’t mind taking the money he offers her.  When Montana notices Manny checking Gina out, he goes berserk and warns him to never look at his sister again.

Montana and Omar go to Bolivia on belhalf of Frank’ who wants them to talk to the drug kingpin Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar). Sosa appreciates Montana’s straight talk even if it is exaggerated and asks him to stay when it’s time for them to leave. Sosa’s reasons become clear once his men kill Omar for being a police informant by hanging him.  When Sosa questions Montana about Omar, Montana tells him truthfully that he never liked Omar and didn’t trust him, but that Frank was a good man and that they could make a deal.  When Montana returns home to tell Frank the news, Frank is furious at both the loss of Omar and the fact that Montana thought he could make unauthorized deals on his behalf.  It’s the final straw between the two and Montana leaves to start his own criminal empire and begins an even more public display of propositioning Elvira.

Soon, Montana’s higher profile and actions make him a target for crooked cops like Mel Bernstein (Harris Yulin) and the target of Frank who now has a vendetta against Montana.  It isn’t long before Frank sends two men with poor eyesight to kill Montana in a club.  Despite being near their mostly drunk target and using machine guns, the two thugs hit just about everyone in the club except Montana.  Certain that the two men were hired by Frank, Montana gathers his couple of men and goes to Frank’s place to get even.  Inexplicably, despite Frank’s wealth and power, he is unable to even hire some security guards to protect him as Montana basically waltzes right in.  Despite being personally targeted for death by Frank, Montana leaves the job of killing Frank to Manny and focuses instead on killing the corrupt cop Bernstein.

Now that Montana is able to consolidate his power he quickly informs Elvira that she belongs to him and begins running the cocaine business and opening up multiple companies to front his illegal empire.  The constant demand for cocaine makes Montana a very wealthy man and he’s taking in so much money that the bank that launders his money informs him that they can’t handle that much quantity anymore without charging him more money.  With unlimited wealth and power along with his trophy wife Elvira, Montana has everything he ever wanted and it’s just a matter of time before his volatile anger and paranoia take it all away from him.

I realize that I am in the minority about disliking this film.  Perhaps if I had seen it back in the eighties, it would hold some fond memories for me and it might have seemed fresher than it does now.  As I told my colleagues, not only is this movie far too long (almost three hours long) but the predictable storyline has already been done before and done better by other movies.  The story of a young man who becomes a bad guy and moves up the crime ladder by killing people only to end up alienating everyone around him was done with more flair and substance by The Godfather Part II (which ironically also starred Pacino).  The entire time I watched Scarface (which seemed like forever), all I could think about was how much better The Godfather movies were able to tell a similar story so much better.


This 1080p (2.35:1) transfer’s quality is wildly uneven.  In daylight scenes, it offers a highly detailed picture that show every wrinkle and bead of sweat on Pacino’s face, but the night-time scenes are filled with noise.  There’s also a lot of edge enhancement throughout the movie and the quality just jumps around.  Textures look very good as do flesh tones for the most part (especially during well-lit scenes).  Colors pop for the most part and this is definitely better than the portions I’ve seen on TV and DVD.  This could have been better but it also could’ve been a lot worse.


Scarface’s DTS-HD Master Audio  7.1 mix doesn’t disappoint and it sounds a lot better than I anticipated it would. The cheesy music, the dialogue, and most especially the various explosions, gunfire, and of course the multiple deaths all in glorious 7.1 sound.  I don’t know if the extra two channels were needed, but this sounds fantastic! There’s also a lot of nice ambiance showcased in this mix especially in the clubs and the immigration camps.  The quality of the sound was the one thing that all of the Why So Blu staff agreed on.

Special Features  

These extras are a mixed bag.  While I love that Universal included the original film as a bonus disc, there’s also a bunch of worthless extras that have nothing really to do with the film other than proving some people love the movie.  If you skip all of them except for The Rebirth, The Acting, and The Creating, you won’t miss anything.  Those three however, are all good and include the film’s cast and crew. There’s also some art cards and a digital copy of the film included which is always nice.

  • Scarface (1932) – Universal generously included Howard Hawks’ original  1932 version of Scarface starring Paul Muni as Antonio “Tony” Camonte. The film offers a 1.33:1 transfer and mono soundtrack as well as an alternate ending and an introduction by film historian Robert Osborne.
  • U-Control – There’s two interactive features that give viewers some extra options.  There’s a Picture-in-Picture track with clips of the cast and crew (that’s also included in the special features) and a scene comparison between the 1932 and the 1983 versions of Scarface.  The second track is Scarface Scorecard  which tracks how many times “fuck” is said and how often gunfire goes off.  It’s kind of juvenile but some people may like it.
  • The Scarface Phenomenon – At almost forty minutes I thought this would be the highlight of the special features but I was sorely disappointed.  Instead of a in depth documentary featuring the cast and crew, we get a few clips of DePalma, Bauer, and Loggia and a whole bunch of C-list celebrities and rappers.  This is a complete waste of time since the majority of these people have nothing to do with the movie at all and I have no idea why there are in this.
  • Deleted scenes – A collection of needless deleted scenes including a montage of different takes of Montana’s final stand.  What’s amazing to me is that there’s actually footage left over that wasn’t included in this already over-long film.
  • The World of Tony Montana – Here’s more people not involved in the film talking about the movie and why they like it.  This time it includes policemen, authors, and some film-makers.
  • The Rebirth – Finally we have a real extra!  In this featurette, we get to finally hear from the big name actors and DePalma and Bregman as they talk about the original movie and how this remake began.
  • The Acting – Each of the main actors are profiled with a lot of emphasis on Pacino and his thoughts.  It’s only around fifteen minutes but it’s got some good info here.
  • The Creating – This is the crown jewel of the extras and it’s basically a making-of documentary with De Palma, Stone, and Bregman talking about making the film and the challenges they faced in doing so.  Between having to leave Miami to film in LA  because of angry Cubans to Stone’s research into the drug world that almost got him killed, this is a great look behind the scenes.
  • The Making of “Scarface: The Video Game” –  A look at the video-game that came out a long time ago for the Playstation 2 that looks pretty rough.  It’s too bad since it seems like the game creator’s really tried to capture the world.
  • Scarface: The TV Version – A look at some of the ways this very adult movie into an acceptable form to show on TV by replacing words and a lot of editing.
  • BD-Live Portal – If you want to see the Def Jam Presents: Origins of a Hip-Hop Classic featurette  and the film’s theatrical trailer, both are available via BD-Live.

Final Thoughts  

The movie’s only saving grace in my opinion was its fantastic cast but even that comes with a caveat as each of them are chewing up so much scenery that the catering bill for the movie must have been non-existent.  Pacino is without a doubt the biggest perpetrator but he’s so big and so over the top, that it actually works for the most part.  The only time it completely fails is when he gets really mad and his eyes bulge out as the music builds to a super cheesy crescendo.  Those scenes are so bad and so exaggerated, that it killed me every time.  I understand why Pacino’s audacious performance has gained so many admirers who love the smug over-confident swagger of the character, but I don’t understand why the character himself is held in such high esteem.  I had no sympathy for the character at all which really limited the appeal of the movie for me.  Tony Montana is simply a low rent Bond villain bent on world domination but without a dependable henchman or a clue how to resolve anything without a weapon.  If this movie’s run-time had been cut in half, I think it would have been a far stronger movie although I realize that I’m in the minority on this one.  I wanted to like the movie but I just couldn’t take the over the top tone of the film and the cheesiness of the angry Tony parts with the unintentionally funny music cue.  Although the movie has some good lines, I would rather watch DePalma’s The Untouchables instead so go ahead and get your pitchforks and say good night to the bad guy!

Nothing exceeds like excess so order your copy today you cockroaches!


21 Responses to “Scarface: Limited Edition Steelbook (Blu-ray Review)”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    Good review, mang, tu sabes.

  2. Brian White

    The video on this Blu-ray is awful. I agree.

    Nice review. I can see it took you some time.

    Here’s $500. Now change that film score please!! I’m thinking at least 4.5.

  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    The thoughts of Sean Ferguson do not reflect the views of the Why So Blu staff as a whole. We all love Scarface, not because it is required, but because it is truth; please enjoy your stay here at our website and exit through the gift shop. 🙂

  4. Sean Ferguson

    Thanks guys! I’m sure all of you would have rated this movie higher but I couldn’t do that. I wanted to like this movie as I loved the cast but it’s just too over the top for my tastes. When you go that big you open yourself up to parody and I don’t think the film successfully pulled it off despite some excellent performances. I thought Sosa was a more credible villain and deserved more screen time. Tony is just a bumbling amateur who is way out of his league and too coked up to even have a clue. And why is it that both Frank and Tony only seem to have like three people guarding them? How stupid is that? Tony should have had his own army of Colombian ninjas like Sosa or at least a Colombian Terminator with a shotgun. The whole movie is silly and filled with plot holes.

  5. Brian White

    Lol at Aaron’s comment.

    Much like Sean, I once had to suffer and write a review for a movie I hated and thought was ridiculous despite others liking it very much. It’s not fun 🙁 http://intotheblu.com/2008/12/serenity/

  6. Aaron Neuwirth

    You have claimed to hate the movie (serenity), yet it got 3 out of 5 in your rating of it and is in no way as negative as you’ve made it sound in your ridiculous texts responses.

  7. Gerard Iribe

    Manny is my favorite character. “Que se quenta?”

  8. Sean Ferguson

    I’m sorry but Manny wasn’t very bright. He knew what Tony’s response would be concerning his sister but did it anyway and even greeted him happily at the door like a moron. I do have to agree with Aaron that Brian’s review sounds a lot more rational than his texts about Serenity. Did the hate grow or were you just trying to hide your feelings more when you wrote it? And Brian, I didn’t hate this movie but I can’t say that I liked it either.

  9. Brian White

    I effing hate Serenity with a passion. I think it’s stupid, talentless and a waste of time, but obviously I’m in the minority so I would never publicly trash it. I agreed to disagree with that review and just went with the populous and took one for the team. I did not feel like getting bashed by all the fanboys.

  10. Gerard Iribe

    I’m not talking about smarts, because he obviously thought that since he was Tony’s best friend and number 1 guy, he’d be immune to Tony’s actions.

    I just thought he was cool in general. Dude had mad game.

    That, and me being able to understand Spanish, some of the Spanish dialogue in the film is pretty cool. They don’t always subtitle every single word for the masses, but for those that understand, it makes it even more authentic and genuine.

  11. Nikolaj Zbikowski

    This discussion seems to have been recommended to me by a friend, so I will attempt to provide my insights on this as objectively as possible.

    Sean, I completely sympathize with your first-time viewing assessment of this film. When I first saw it (on VHS), I only watched the first tape one night and the other tape the next night. First time viewers will most likely be put off by the length of this film (especially if their under the impression that it’s an action flick), as I was. To be honest, I also find certain aspects of it’s style to be cheezy, over-the-top, and melodramatic, but I don’t believe these aspects are delivered poorly. After several viewings since that initial first taste, I’ve become quite fond of the flavor and style of this film.

    Having said that, I believe the issue between you and your co-workers disagreement is not over the quality of the film; rather, it is over the appeal of the characters in this film. It seems you find the characters in the Godfather much more appealing than you do in this film; perhaps you enjoy soft-spoken characters more than you do aggressive, out-spoken characters. Your appreciation for Sosa in Scarface seems to further support this supposition; is it possible that you disliked Sonny in the Godfather? There is nothing wrong with having a preference for characters, but you should be able to communicate your preferences rationally if you hope to convince anyone to understand your perspective. Generally expressing a dislike for the characters in a film is a pretty weak argument for rating it poorly.

    So, even though you may just be reviewing movies based entirely on your preferences, it may help you in the long run to try to express and justify your ideas and feelings more comprehensively for readers.

  12. Sean Ferguson

    Hi Nikolaj,

    Thanks for taking the time to leave me the excellent comment that you did! I’m glad that we agree that a lot of the film is cheesy, over the top, and melodramatic which is ok if that’s what the filmmakers were going for. In this case, I believe that to be the case especially after watching the special features where Pacino mentions that once he realized how big an operatic DePalma wanted the film to be, he made his performance even bigger to match that vision. I do believe they went too far but that’s just my opinion.

    I can’t speak for my colleagues on why they enjoyed the film more than I did but you may be right that at least one of the reasons may be because they liked the characters. Brian believes that Tony Montana is a “great man,” while I think he is a murderous psychopath with basically no redeeming qualities other than he doesn’t like killing children. Now I don’t have to like a film’s character or support his life philosophy to enjoy a movie. Darth Vader isn’t the nicest of fellows but I love the Star Wars movies so I don’t believe that that played a part in my review like you suggested. To answer your question about the Godfather movies, I liked Sonny except for his abusive side, but I was still sad to see him killed while I felt no remorse for Montana. I believe that The Godfather II covered a lot of the same ground as Scarface but did it in a more realistic way and did it better.

    I also don’t believe that I reviewed the movie based solely on my preferences (although I’m sure that plays a part for everyone),or that I didn’t enjoy it because of my opinion of Tony. I was disappointed in the movie because it had a fantastic cast that I felt was let down by a variety of factors that I mentioned in my review. I think it’s way too long (and far longer than it needed to be), the tone is too over the top, the music works against the film in unintentionally funny ways, and there’s a ton of plot holes. You may not agree with my opinion concerning these items, but they were included in my review to provide a rationale for my ultimate score of the movie. If that wasn’t clear to you after reading my review, then that’s unfortunate since I believe that list does justify my ideas and feelings for readers and why it is rated as it is. I hope this helps you understand my position on the film and I really appreciate your thoughtful comment. Thank you for reading our site!


  13. Sean Ferguson

    By the way…I liked Sosa because he wasn’t cartoonish like Tony. He was a credible threat and I thought Paul Shenar did an incredible job with his performance especially since it was grounded compared to the rest of the cast around him. He was the one actor that kept it real which was kind of risky when everyone else went overboard. Sosa’s entire demeanor projected menace and danger which made him appear even more dangerous and realistic than the loud mouthed Tony. I also liked that he was smart enough to have a lot of men working for him which Frank and Tony didn’t seem to understand until it was too late.

  14. Nikolaj Zbikowski

    Sean, I think your description of Tony being cartoonish is exactly correct; and is probably the main reason for his appeal. He is larger than life; and I believe, deep down, most people crave the luxury of that freedom (it’d be like being a kid again: uninhibited).

    Personally, I have a pretty big peeve against people who take acting seriously, but that’s an entirely different conversation for another forum.

    However, your comparison of the film with either one of the Godfather films is not sound; their narrative and themes are much different from those of Scarface. (I’m sure your co-workers can breakdown how/why much better than I can.)

    I completely disagree with your opinion of the music though; it was a different time with different tastes. (Although, I do agree with your “bulging eyes” example.) If you’re ultimately suggesting that the music is just as cartoonish as the characters, I’m not sure how that works against the film.

    One last quick question: What was the biggest plot hole in the film that bothered you the most?

  15. Sean Ferguson

    I disagree that the Godfather films have a different narrative and theme. In Godfather II, we see young Vito Corelone’s rags to riches story as he climbs up the ladder of crime. Vito also kills people but only when necessary and he also makes sure that his community is protected which Tony does not. Both characters are desperate and selfish enough to live a life of crime but only Vito gives back to the community. Tony is selfish through and through and doesn’t care about his wife, his best friend, or anyone else except for perhaps his sister Gina whom he has forcibly put on a pedestal. While the two characters are very different from each other, the overall themes are similiar. Both wanted respect, were willing to kill for it, and in a curious twist, both of the characters that Pacino played in each movie ended up alone and alienated from all they cared about. That sounds pretty close to me.

    The music for this film is representative of the time it was made in but I’m talking about the specific cues that signified the start of Angry Tony if you happened to miss the bulging eyes. Every time this combination happened, I laughed hysterically because it’s so over the top. When you deliberately make a movie this excessive, you walk a fine line between camp and and over the top. I think this movie crossed back and forth because they pushed that line too far.

    And lastly, when I mentioned the plot holes, I should have worded that a little better. What I was trying to say that as predictable as this movie is, (and I predicted just about everything) it doesn’t follow it’s own narrative logic. For example, Manny is well aware how protective Tony is about his sister. He is also well aware how violent and coked up Tony is and despite being warned, he still fools around with her and marries her. He’s even stupid enough to look happy when Tony arrives which would not have really happened as well as he knew Tony. The scipt, the actor, and the director failed the character of Manny as he would have known better.

    It’s ridiculous situations like that or Tony surviving the attack at the club, or Frank and Tony having hardly any protection at all, or the Colombian ninjas and their Terminator complete with sunglasses and a shotgun. Towards the end, Tony is talking about going to war with Sosa and all I kept thinking was – with who? He killed Manny so that leaves Tony and two other guys. This movie is just ridiculous. I’m sure if I watched it again with that in mind and no higher expectations, I might like it more. I think the cast is great and there’s some good lines in there too, but I’m disappointed in the movie overall. It seems like there’s two movies in there. One of them is a traditional gangster movie, and the other is comedy and the only time that has ever worked together is in Johnny Dangerously.

  16. Nikolaj Zbikowski

    I would argue that both films are not just “rags to riches” gangster movies; much like you are not just a movie reviewer. Ogres are like parfaits, and so are both Scarface and Godfather. 🙂

    It seems to me that you have a strong opinion of how certain characters should act or behave in films. I can confidently say that people are quite unpredictable and that they make terrible choices, why should movie characters be any different? :/

    I do completely agree with you though that this film is excessive and there are people who don’t enjoy excess… I guess all I’m really trying to say is that I question your standards, especially when loose comparisons and generalizations are used as arguments. (No offense.) :p

  17. Nikolaj Zbikowski

    By the way, have you seen the original Scarface?… If you were to compare the original with the remake, you might be able to make a stronger case for your review.

  18. Sean Ferguson

    Hi Nikolaj,

    You asked me to explain more fully how I reached my final opinion of the movie and I believe I have done that. Each time that I’ve tried to answer your questions, you’ve taken my explanation and made your own opinion on what I meant by it. You asked me why I liked Sosa and if I disliked Sonny and I answered you. Then you theorized that my dislike of the movie was due to the aggressive and outspoken characters which I refuted and gave examples of why that wasn’t the case. And now, after explaining my thoughts to you again, you’ve now proclaimed that I have a strong opinion on how certain characters should act and behave in films. At the risk of another theory to be thrown my way, I will once again disagree with your analysis. I do believe that a successful script allows a character to either grow or not change at all depending on what situations arise, but they should always be true to themselves. This entire movie builds a case that Tony is violent, unstable, and addicted to cocaine. Manny is aware of all that and he’s also been warned to stay away from Gina. You can argue that Manny suddenly decided to be “unpredictable” and risk Tony’s wrath, but I would argue that based on everything we’ve seen from both Manny and Tony and their past history, that that would not happen. But that’s my opinion just like it’s your opinion that any criticism of this movie is due to either my not liking aggressive characters, or just because they aren’t appealing enough to me.

    I hate to break this to you, but this is a movie review not a college thesis. My job is to give our readers a general overview of the movie and how I felt about it, and a also a rundown of the rest of the package. You didn’t agree with my review and that’s perfectly acceptable as I don’t expect everyone to always agree with me. You asked for some clarifications and I gave them to you respectfully and honestly. Despite my lengthly review and the many additional words that I’ve written to answer your questions, you still feel the need to question my standards and generalize my detailed responses to you as “loose comparisons.” If anything, I feel that I have more than answered your questions and made my points but despite that, you seem to enjoy badmouthing people that have treated you with nothing but respect. I don’t mind explaining my position or my thinking behind my reviews, but I don’t feel the need to converse with people that refuse to show common courtesy. (No offense.) Let’s just end this conversation and agree to disagree about the movie and I hope that you enjoy this Blu-ray more than I did. Thanks for reading the site.

  19. Nikolaj Zbikowski

    I apologize, Sean.

    It seems I’ve struck a chord with you; though I don’t recall saying anything negative about you as an individual. (Your rationale maybe, but not you as a person.)

    I’d still encourage you to watch the original Scarface to make a better comparison of the remake, since it is more of a traditional gangster movie.

    Good luck with your writing.

  20. Matt Goodman

    The restoration was beautiful. Although I don’t particularly agree with your opinion Sean, this is a great write up. Cheers 🙂

  21. Sean Ferguson

    Thanks Matt!