Carlito's Way

Carlito's Way


Reviewed by: Gary Duncan

Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) is back on the streets after serving a five-year stint in Sing Sing for drug dealing. He's a legend, the "J.P. Morgan of the smack business." But that was then. Carlito has done his time and now he's going straight. All he needs is $75,000 and then he's off to the Bahamas to drink pina coladas and rent cars to tourists.

But this is not a happy ending movie. It's dark and we know something bad is going to happen. And something bad does happen, even before the opening credits. We're on a station platform. Carlito is shot in the stomach from close range. We don't see the shooter but we see Carlito go down, in slow motion. Carlito is defiant ("Don't worry, my heart, it don't ever quit. I ain't ready to check out") but deep down he knows his time is up.

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And this is what drives the movie, this sense of impending doom as director Brian De Palma pieces together the events that lead to the shooting. Carlito might be a convicted drug dealer and a cold-blooded murderer, but we want him to get out, we want him to escape with his long-suffering girlfriend Gail (Penelope Ann Miller) and finally do the right thing.

Pacino is pitch perfect as the world-weary Carlito (there's none of the ranting and raving of Scent Of A Woman, or the showboating of The Devil's Advocate). De Palma deserves credit for keeping him on a tight rein and Carlito's Way proves once again that Pacino, when he can be bothered, is still in a class of his own. His scenes with Miller are particularly touching. Carlito knows he's let her down before and he knows he's going to let her down again, despite his best intentions.

The supporting cast isn't bad, either. Sean Penn, sporting a shocking Kevin Keegan perm, plays Carlito's greasy lawyer and best friend Dave Kleinfeld. Having secured Carlito's release from jail, Kleinfeld offers him a job managing a night club to help him raise his $75,000. But dodgy Dave has his own problems, and we're not just talking about that perm. There's also the niggling little problem of him having stolen a million dollars from the Mob. Carlito is honour bound to help him, but at the same time he knows that in doing so he's being sucked right back into his old ways.

Miller gives a typically solid performance as Gail, a dancer dreaming of the big time but reduced to stripping to make ends meet. Gail is as sweet and vulnerable as Kleinfeld is sleazy and you can't help wondering how she hooked up with Carlito and his crew in the first place.

Reviewed on: 27 Oct 2003
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Carlito's Way packshot
Al Pacino is a recovering drug dealer trying to go straight in the mean city.
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Director: Brian De Palma

Writer: David Koepp, Edwin Torres, Leon Ichaso

Starring: Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo, Ingrid Rogers, Luis Guzman, Viggo Mortensen, Paul Mazursky

Year: 1993

Runtime: 145 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


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