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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Scarface is extremely violent from start to finish and is not recommended to anyone under the age of 17. It has developed a cultlike following, especially among teenage males. Despite the main character's death due to his violent criminal behavior, his dramatic outbursts may appeal to angsty teens. Additionally, the obscenity-filled dialogue is some of the most quotable in film history, with many lines having been incorporated into hip-hop lyrics of the past 20 years. Tony treats his wife quite poorly, verbally lashing out at her. Cocaine is a constant presence in the film.
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What's the story?
The powerful triumvirate of director Brian DePalma, screenwriter Oliver Stone, and actor Al Pacino came together to create this 1980s soaked reworking of the classic Howard Hawks gangster film, SCARFACE. It's the story of Cuban refugee, Tony Montana (Al Pacino) who climbs to the top of Miami's cocaine scene, eventually falling prey to both addiction and his own assassination. As Tony's wife Elvira, Michelle Pfeiffer plays the role drugged out and disinterested, convincingly enough to make her appeal to Tony almost unfathomable. In a holdover from the 1932 version, Tony's overbearing relationship with his sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) has tones of incestuous desire; only in this version, Gina actually confronts him about this in a shockingly violent manner.
Is it any good?
Al Pacino gives his first of many truly over-the-top performances with gusto in Scarface. This film's reputation stands up there with Pulp Fiction (1994) as a "must see" for hip teens (especially males) who love their violence spiked with copious amounts of darkly humorous dialogue ("Say hello to my little friend.").
Every bit of the film, from the camera moves to the set design is excessively done, like Tony's life, and in that sense, the film is imbued with a feeling of 1980s self-indulgent immorality. This film is extremely violent and is not recommended to anyone under the age of 17.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Tony's story is a rise-and-fall scenario, and how it makes the obvious point that the decadent lifestyle of a drug kingpin can crumble very easily. Does Al Pacino's character make his violent lifestyle more attractive than it really is?
Is the graphic and verbal violence necessary to convey the story, or is it overindulgent?
What can be said of Tony's troubled relationships with women? Does Tony ever even appear to be happy or content for a moment of the film? For that matter, do any of the characters?