Site Update – 21/09/09
September 21, 2009 § Leave a comment
I love Carlito’s Way – unashamadely, unabashedly, completely love the film. There is so much in it that just rocks. Firstly, there’s Al Pacino’s engrossing central performance as Carlito Brigante, the Puerto Rican former drug kingpin, recently released from prison, doing his utmost to change his ways and go legal, whilst almost everyone around him is trying to get him put back into jail. There’s Sean Penn’s OTT performance as Carlito’s corrupt, coke-addled, Jewish lawyer, Kleinfeld, who fancies himself as a bit of a gangster (and also, clearly, forms the inspiration for GTA: Vice City‘s Ken Rosenberg). Then there’s Penelope Ann Miller as Gail, Carlito’s old love interest, who’s just got the best chemistry with Pacino; they both share a fantastically sexy, cheesy, romantic love scene together – one among many of the film’s high points.
That’s what Carlito’s Way has got in spades: moments and lines so memorable that they never leave you. The intro, for example, hints at the outcome of the film, that Carlito gets shot; however, we never know for sure if he dies, and by the end of the film, you’re so wanting Carlito to make his break that you’re essentially willing him, against all odds, to make it. The Titanic problem – that of lost interest in a film’s characters due to knowing their fate – is narrowly avoided. In the beginning the audience is introduced to this character who, by all estimates, looks like he’s a goner; by the end of the film we’re so in love with Carlito that it’s utterly unthinkable that he should die like this. It’s very much a gamble to tell an audience the ending to a film before it even really starts, but in this case it’s extremely effective in drawing out a heightened emotional response from the audience. Without this flashforward, the ending probably wouldn’t be anywhere near as affective.
There are also other great scenes in there, too numerous to go into any great detail over (and, also, which I don’t wish to spoil for anyone who hasn’t already watched the film): the introduction, Carlito’s monologue on the stretcher and in the courtroom; the drug deal; Carlito watching gail through the rain; the chase through the subway and Grand Central; and “Escape to Paradise”.
“Escape to Paradise” refers to a poster seen both at the beginning and end of the movie by Carlito, and it represents his dream to (duh!) escape to paradise, so to speak – to finally break free of his past and start life anew. The theme of escaping one’s past crimes is very prominent in the film, but more prominent is that idea of getting old, of unrealised dreams and regrets, and the fantasy of leaving it all behind.
Amusingly, Carlito’s Way wouldn’t feel too out of place thematically when compared to Revolutionary Road, another film I watched recently. In a bunch of ways these two films are miles apart, yet on this crucial point they converge. It just shows you that, essentially, there are only so many types of stories you can tell before you end up repeating yourself. The trick is in making the small details count – a change in style, in time and setting, in characters – so as to make it appear new. Carlito’s Way stands up because it tells a particular story well, and it tells it in its own unique, entertaining chic.
Appropriately, this week’s quote is from Carlito’s Way – namely, the early courtroom scene that sees Carlito winning on appeal against the United States Government.
Quote of the week:
Now I ain’t sayin’ that my way would have been different had my mother been alive when I was a kid, ’cause that’s all you hear in the joint: “I didn’t have a chance.” No. Bullshit. I was already a mean little bastard while my mother was alive, and I know it. But I learned about women from her.
[Judge interrupts Carlito before he’s allowed to continue]
Your Honor, with all due respect, past and present, and without further to-do. Let me assure this court that I am through walkin’ on the wild side. That’s all I’ve been tryin’ to tell you. I have been sick with the social ills known in the ghetto, but my time in the sterling correctional facilities of Green Haven and Sing Sing has not been in vain. I’ve been cured! Born again, like the Watergaters. I know you heard this rap before. Your Honor, I mean it.
This is the truth. I changed. I changed, and it didn’t take no thirty years like Your Honor thought, but only five. That’s right, sir. Five years. And look at me. Completely rehabilitated, reinvigorated, re-assimilated and finally gonna be relocated. And I want to thank a lot of people for that. I look over there and I see that man there, Mr. Norwalk. I want to thank you, sir, for making the tapes in an illegal fashion. I would like to thank the Court of Appeals for reversing you, Your Honor. And I want to thank Almighty God, without whom no case gets tossed.
(Carlito Brigante standing up in front of the judge, telling him “what was who”.)