Thursday, 22 September 2011

Scarface: Say hello to our little friend...again...

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Universal are starting work on a new version of Scarface. Now there’s doubtless a  massive chorus of heresy building up in the throats & fingertips of those who love the 1983 Brian De Palma film with Al Pacino & Michelle Pfeiffer; but they would do well to remember that the same thing was said when De Palma set about making a contemporary version of the 1932 Howard Hawks / Howard Hughes classic. That film was, and still is, considered a gnuine classic of the Gangster genre, but De Palma’s version has usurped it and is considered even better by many. Another comparison could be The Maltese Falcon. The version of that book that everyone   remembers / knows is the Humphrey Bogart film Noir version. That was the THIRD film of the book and, essentially, a remake of the first film. More to the point whilst there were 51 years between the first two Scarface films and will be at least 29 years between the last one and this latest version; The first film of The Maltese Falcon was made in 1931; The second (Satan Met A Lady) just 5 (FIVE) years later in 1936 and the Bogart version just another 5 (YES FIVE) years after that one!

So you can see that there’s precedent for this being an OK thing to do, and more than that a very successful thing to do. The question for Scarface is what is the crime that this film can use to make a relevant, contemporary film for the early 21st Century? The first film had an Italian Immigrant moving his way up the crime ladder in Chicago. Prohibition era America, Chicago in particular an the birth of the super gangsters provided plenty of topical material for the original movie. As did the ethnic makeup of the various mobs; Irish & Italian Americans.

The 1983 version update the themes with the immigrant this time being Cuban and the crime being the cocaine trade. Relocated to Miami, the best setting for those elements, the film was definitely timely, as was its level of violence. Crime is always an issue when times are hard and people are certainly feeling the financial squeeze all over right now; but what would the contemporary crime be? Drugs are still a massive issue of course but that would make the film feel more like a remake of film 2 than we’re led to believe this is. The aim is to update the story using the main themes of the first two films; Crime, immigrants, going freaking insane with gangster power, that sort of thing. It’s hard to imagine a film where someone rises to the top f the internet crime world; or the Identity theft mob. Human trafficking maybe? Well we’ll have to wait and see.

(Incidentally, there was also a video game, based on the 1983 film, released 5 years ago)
Scarface 1932...

Scarface 1983...

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