From Forum With No Name:
DJ Joe: Carlito's Way Al Pacino is Carlito a reformed gangsta looking to clean up after a five year stint in a correctional facility.The DePalma flick never really jelled for me- it did have nice scenes like a groovy escalator shootout and Sean Penn's Jewfro- but I never bought into Carlito's romance with Penelope Ann Miller- she is cute- but there seems to be no chemistry. C
Tonya J: Interesting. I think Carlito's Way is a much better film that De Palma's Scarface, which is more a gangster caricature than it is a film about real human beings, which I think Carlito is. Miller and Pacino should have had chemistry (I have some recollection they did); they were doing it in real life at the time.
 - I meant to put in here but I was in a hurry to leave, is that while Pacino gives a brave, balls-out performance in Scarface, I wasn't moved by it and the gore was hard to look at, what he does in Carlito's Way is so nuanced that the violence, while not pleasant, means more because Tony Montano only lives for scratching and clawing his way to the top of the gangster heap, and Carlos Brigante wants out of crime in a big way, to just run a legitimate business and be left alone. Unfortunately, getting out is mountainously harder than Pacino's Michael Corleone getting out.
Shit, Carlito's Way is one of the best films of the '90s and one of the best things either de Palma OR Pacino ever did. Pacino played a real character here (not, as Tonya called it, a potty-mouthed "caricature" like in Scarface), with real depth, and the ending has the amplitude of genuine tragedy.
And Pacino and Miller--that scene with Miller behind the door chain gives me a boner every time.
Tonya J: There's two ways to read that scene. The first one I don't like, which is "Come get me, I want to be taken." That's a major reason I don't read "romance" novels because the feeling of being overpowered is not one I would enjoy, besides being uncomfortably close to rape. The other is more palatable; "I'll lock the door and see how badly he really wants me and how hard he'll work to do it" (because really, she's not a helpless damsel - she was a stripper now trying to be a legitimate dancer [which is of course, something they have in common big time - two people who were way off the fringes of normalcy trying to have a more normal, decent life]) and yeah, it is kind of exciting how much he wants her.
ChrisJ: Ditto Carlito's Way is one of the best modern Gangster films, far far better than Scarface (Pacino's)which goes from an over-the-top guilty pleasure to the equivalent of a bad Bay, Harlin, Schumacher sequel during its last 30 minutes. I enjoy DePalma's Scarface as camp of course and pretend it isn't utterly despicable in its portrayals of minorities and women.
DJ Joe: I am not a big fan of Scarface either- it felt forced
my fave recent Pacino gangster thingy was Donnie Brasco
I liked Carlito's Way but I was underwhelmed by it yet again- it felt vaguely real- but the Penn character was too over the top and I just never bought into the Carlito/Penelope Ann Miller romance- but I do like it better than Scarface easy
my fave gangster flicks are Godfather 2 , Godfather , Casino, Goodfellas,Donnie Brasco,White Heat,Force of Evil &Bugsy- but truth be told- I am more amped up about the upcoming seasons of The Wire & The Sopranos then anything
Carlito's Way was a genuine tragedy, the way it was shaped and paced, circumstances rising up against Pacino's character until he's undone by a character flaw (mercy, compassion--not a strong survival trait in his world). Unlike Scarface, where the man was a bastard and hard to sympathize with (I don't care how many kids he saves from blowing up--you need to sympathize with the hero / antihero before the tragedy can have any sting).
Donnie Brasco had a great Pacino performance...but the film itself didn't have the visual snap and clarity of De Palma, and I keep forgetting Depp's in the picture (he kind of faded into the background). It also didn't have DePalma's cynicism to counterbalance the sentiment (Pacino was very fine, but the film practically asked you to weep for him--Mike Newell's handling of emotions there is crude...unlike, say, Wiseguy, maybe the best recent undercover-cop series, or even Ringo Lam's City on Fire).
I'm not sure which magazine voted Carlito's Way best film of the '90s--Cahiers du Cinema, perhaps?--which made me raise my brow back then. But now I tend to agree: not THE best, but one of the.