It’s been some time since I liked a gangster film. The last good one I remember watching was A Bronx Tale but it was not a traditional gangster movie like Goodfellas or Scarface. So Carlito’s Way was a welcome change. A good old mob story with Al Pacino. But the star here was Sean Penn. With those geeky glasses and springly hairstyle he’s the last one whom you’d think would involve in such criminal activities. Even though the screen space was less for him he’s the one who steals the show.
When Al gets shot in the very first scene and the camera keeps on taking 360 degree turn its beautiful to watch. Even though you know that it’s a climax we all are intrigued to hear what led to it. And thus begins the climax of Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino). I loved both his accent and the others in the area who call him Brigante with that thick accent.
Carlito you know is a powerhouse but he keeps his calm so that he doesn’t want to get involved in any criminal activities. But whenever he is pushed into it he comes out of it effortlessly. Because that’s where his roots are. But on the other hand David Kleinfield (Sean Penn) who tries to get into criminal activity even though succeeds, gets his hands dirty because that’s not his background. When Carlito says that David is a lawyer and not a gangster it has that much depth.
On the other hand it’s not only David who suffers for his mistakes but its Carlito. That’s what he keeps on saying, “it keeps on coming back to me no matter what I do.” Carlito is a tired guy. He wants a settled life but he’s not allowed to do so. Not that people push him into the hole wantedly but they’re used to seeing him as a hot shot and want him to remain the same. Anything less he does becomes a nothing story. The question is how long he could command respect when he’s not doing what he does best.
There have been constant references between Al Pacino and Kamal Hassan but after watching so many of Al’s films only through this I got to know Kamal indeed imitates Al but no harm. It suits him well and is good to watch. Al Pacino too couldn’t have looked better with beard and jacket throughout. This becomes my second favorite movie of his. First would still remain Dog Day Afternoon but it pushed Donnie Brasco one step down because even though Al was terrific as a sad man in Donnie Brasco, Carlito’s Way was wholesome.
The beauty in this film is its story telling, the treatment given to a gangster film. Usually it’s either the past that haunts a gangster or it’s the glory that brings them down but here it’s his friends who brings him down. That in spite of knowing that there are no friends in this business. He hardly trusts people but even the very few he trusts they bring him down. Throughout the film all problem he faces is because of Sean Penn and that’s one hell of a revenge scene.
The climax sequence, the chase from Sean Penn’s Hospital to the gun shot was terrific. Most of it was like Untouchables. But in Untouchables it looked like De Palma wanted to self-infest the tension but here the tension was building on its own. It was less fancy than the cradle coming down in stairs. The escalator scene was brilliant and heroic. In fact after the scene where Al throws bullets in dust bin, this was the best scene. Somehow railway stations make up for good action sequence be it Bourne or Untouchables or Carlito’s way. All was terrific.
I almost forgot about the Benny (John Leguizamo) by the time the final shot was about to arrive but he made the change. I’d have preferred Al to live somehow but that’s how it is.