Friday, November 25, 2016

Film Pairing — Mob Movies Again, Guns And Violins

This is the third (and final for now) post in the gangster movie pairings. These are films primarily of the ‘80s and ‘90s, though Hollywood’s preoccupation with the mob goes way back with major stars like James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson taking the roles big-time gangsters

Al Pacino
Scarface — One of the most violent of the sub genre, Scarface was directed by Brian De Palma based on a screenplay by Oliver Stone.  Al Pacino, who also starred in the first two Godfather films, plays Tony Montana (Scarface), a Cuban refugee who becomes a major player in the drug trade. In fact, when we left the Godfather Part Two, the Pacino character was in Miami and almost moved his mob into Cuba, which is where, though unrelated, Scarface resumed.  Instead of playing a quiet, pensive Italian as he did in The Godfather Pacino plays an explosive Cuban criminal. Scarface was among the throngs of boat people Fidel Castro wanted to dispose of, sending them instead to the U.S. to undermine this country’s stability in what was called the “Mariel crisis.”

Steven Bauer is solid and charming as Montana’s best friend and partner in crime. Michelle Pfeiffer is the forbidden woman Scarface wants for his own. We get both chunk of history during the Jimmy Carter years, and a glimpse of Miami, especially South Beach before it was reclaimed as a hot spot.

Richard Gere and Diane Lane
Perhaps without the depth of The Godfather, Scarface, released in 1983, does ask the question, “how much is enough?” as it relates to wealth and power. It’s important to warn again: This is a violent film. So we might ask the same question about the graphic cinematography. How much is enough?

The Cotton Club — Raves from me. Apparently, the screenplay had dozens of rewrites with Francis Ford Coppola, William Kennedy and Mario Puzo, contributing. The result is a remarkably entertaining film. We’ve got a love triangle. We have a lovely vixen, a legendary gangster, Dutch Shultz and a handsome musician/actor playing dangerously at the edges of mob business. And most of the film takes place in a Harlem nightclub in the ‘30s, with top-notch music and dance. It is also a fine drama with excellent cinematography by Steven Goldblatt.

The cast is golden: Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Bob Hoskins and Gwen Verdon.  Fred Gwynne almost steals the show.  Nicholas Cage has a supporting role.  Also appearing: Maurice Hines, Joe Dallesandro, Laurence Fishburne and Tom Waits. James Remar plays Shultz and Diane Lane plays the love interest.  She was nominated for a Razzie as worst supporting actress.  That’s absurd. She was absolutely charming and right as Gere’s and Remar’s love interest.
Maurice And Gregory Hines

The film was based on James Haskins’ book and was released in 1984, a critical and box office success.

How to imbibe during this gangster double feature: Scarface develops a lust for Scotch before burying his face in cocaine. All sorts of cocktails as well as bottles of champagne would be appropriate for a party at The Cotton Club. For the many who avoid alcohol or who have to drive home, there are alcohol free bubblies available everywhere.

No comments: