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Overall Rating

Awesome: 31.58%
Worth A Look54.39%
Average: 12.28%
Pretty Bad: 1.75%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 51 user ratings

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Carlito's Way
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by Brian McKay

"De Palma and Pacino tread some very familiar ground"
4 stars

There are times when CARLITO'S WAY feels less like a movie and more like a "Greatest Hits" package for director Brian De Palma. Pacino in Latino gangster mode ala' SCARFACE? check. Extended train station chase scene and shootout ala' UNTOUCHABLES? check. Voyeuristic observations of a girl dancing across the street ala' BODY DOUBLE? yup. But while it all feels a bit recycled at times, it still works

Pacino plays Carlos "Carlito" Brigante, a former drug dealer who has just been sprung from a 30 year sentence after only serving five years - thanks to his sleazy cokehead attorney David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn) getting the verdict overturned on a technicality. However, Carlito is determined to make the best out of the lesson he learned in the joint, and turn his life around. No sooner has he gotten out of prison, however, than he becomes entangled in a drug deal gone bad between his cousin and some local thugs. The aftermath leaves Carlitos with a room full of dead hoods (cousin included) and a stack of cash sitting out on the bar as the distant wail of sirens approaches. He pockets the money and slips out of the back door.

Rather than use the money to get back into the game, he decides to save it up so that he can buy into a legitimate business run by a friend in the Bahamas. If he can get 75K together, he can buy in. In order to get the rest of the money, he agrees to manage a nightclub owned by Kleinfeld and some of his associates. Since the place is lousy with criminal types, it doesn't take a Nostradamus to see that Carlito is going to get mixed up with some bad shit again sooner or later, like it or not. The fact that Kleinfeld is mixed up in some shady business of his own, and ends up dragging Carlos into his dirty laundry, doesn't help Carlos keep on the straight and narrow any. Meanwhile, he rekindles a relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Gail (Penelope Ann Miller), an aspiring dancer who has been reduced to dancing in strip clubs after one failed audition too many. Carlito slowly wins her back and convinces her to run away with him to paradise, but the writing is on the wall right from the opening credits.

Despite many familiar elements, and some terribly maudlin moments bolstered by an overstated musical score, Carlito's Way remains a worthwhile watch thanks to a serviceable performance from Pacino (not brilliant like in Scarface, but not phoning it in like in Any Given Sunday, either). It also benefits from solid supporting performances by Penn and Miller, as well as Luis Guzman, John Leguizamo, and even Viggo "Aragorn" Mortensen as a wheelchair-bound snitch. Though sparse, the action scenes are intense and well-staged. Carlito is a sympathetic character, a born survivor who tries to do the right thing, but keeps getting dragged back into the thug life by circumstance or necessity. Unfortunately, it takes for granted the relationships between the three main characters (Carlito, Gail, and Kleinfeld) without ever giving sufficient back story to convince us that these three people, who live in very different worlds, would even know each other, much less share the level of intimacy that they do. Another minor stumbling block is Pacino's somewhat lifeless voice-over narration, further hampered by his attempt at a convincing Puerto Rican accent. Hell, even Mortensen, the white guy, does a better Boricuan accent than Pacino does.

Flaws aside, CARLITO'S WAY ultimately works as a tale of redemption, although not a particularly original one. Bottom line, Pacino swears a lot and shoots some people, while Penelope Ann Miller shows her boobs a few times. Those two elements alone should be enough to make it worth your while.

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originally posted: 04/11/04 16:40:43
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User Comments

2/08/19 Seymour Scagnetti Loved it! Penn delivers one the great cinema weasels. 4 stars
7/22/18 morris campbell overlong but entertaining and well made 4 stars
1/26/15 Jeff WIlder Very good gangster movie. Pacino at his best. 4 stars
3/06/14 Tommy2Tone Just viewed for first time. Still holds up - great stuff. 4 stars
12/28/13 Valentina Gripping suspense and action; a moving and poignant love story. p miller ideally cast 5 stars
12/29/12 Joe smaltz Exellant movie. Good acting. Penelope, OMG. Ending expected, but well done. 5 stars
9/14/11 Mike Spot on. 4 stars
1/19/08 Pamela White intense movie 4 stars
12/14/07 Double M One of De Palma's very best. Better, more mature than Scarface.. deeper story & characters. 5 stars
11/29/07 Al not Pacino's best work but not bad. Ultimately, DePalma is low-rent Scorcese 4 stars
12/17/06 William Goss Rather good for another gangster-gets-out-of-the-game drama. DePalma shows some restraint. 4 stars
7/03/06 Indrid Cold Relatively restrained compared to Scarface, which is a good thing 4 stars
6/16/06 ALDO if you havn't seen it won't wait any longer!!! ITS A CLASSIC 5 stars
5/11/06 dionwr Al Pacino overacts, and we get to see Penelope Miller naked 4 stars
5/05/06 Uri Lessing Haven't seen it 3 stars
5/02/06 PaulBryant De Palma proves again he doesn't know anything about directing actors. 3 stars
5/02/06 Ryan_A Penn's Great; Pacino at about 8.5 on the Shout-O-Meter 4 stars
5/02/06 EricDSnider .... 3 stars
5/02/06 David Cornelius ----- 3 stars
5/02/06 William Goss Still haven't seen it. 4 stars
5/02/06 HBS-SH cusack's mom goes for the jugular 5 stars
1/26/06 Agent Sands A good, riveting, if completely formulaic, epic crime drama. 4 stars
1/03/06 Wiseman Fucking awesome! a true classic! 5 stars
10/10/05 AM One of the best films I've seen. 5 stars
8/28/05 Evan Great. Sad ending though.. 5 stars
12/01/04 Steve Newman Seen this film loads of times. Its great - Penn is excellent 4 stars
11/12/04 jellica i liked the acting 5 stars
9/07/04 mr t watch this film 5 stars
9/04/04 jeff hey you know benny alvarez? 5 stars
7/08/04 Denise Duspiva Pacino at his best 5 stars
5/25/04 C Vega not as good as scarface but it still rocks! 5 stars
4/18/04 elizaveta captivating with great acting by support & sean penn 4 stars
1/09/04 John don'r expect Scarface - it's different but in its own way just as good 5 stars
7/09/03 natasha_theobald amazing performances, good redemption story, nice visual impact 5 stars
5/23/03 mr. Pink Doesn't reach the heights of Scarface, but it goes a long way. 4 stars
3/21/03 R.W. Welch Not very original plot line but well carried off. 4 stars
3/08/03 Jack Sommersby Superior to "Scarface". Familiar yet beautifully realized. Pacino is magnetic. 4 stars
2/05/03 Silverline I love Gangster movies! This one is average in all respects. Another DePalma failure 3 stars
11/17/02 The Man Slightly disappointing. Beginning gives away ending. P.A. Miller not a good casting call. 3 stars
11/12/02 Anarchy Azmi A>W>E>S>O>M> the ending 5 stars
9/02/02 y2mckay It's no Scarface, but it ain't bad. Pacino shoots a lot of bad guys. Penelope Ann naked! 4 stars
4/14/02 Shrike Al Pacino rocks in this solid ganster flick 4 stars
9/22/01 Hawkeye Al Pacino and Sean Penn turn in excellent performances. Hardly The Godfather, but good. 4 stars
8/29/01 Michael Flynn Al Pacino and Sean Penn are great. All-around excellent. 5 stars
3/27/01 malcolm why the HELL does De Palma show him dying in the opening shot?!!!!!!! 4 stars
3/08/01 Sanja just say: Al Pacino 4 stars
2/17/01 Jake just couldn't get into it. 2 stars
10/21/00 Blackman I fucking loved this white boy shit!!! Great acting. 5 stars
4/26/00 Klute. More classic Pacino, only this one is a little bit weirded out by Sean Penn. 4 stars
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  02-Nov-1993 (R)
  DVD: 13-Sep-2005



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