Al Pacino. One of the greatest actors of our time, and few would contest that. If you think about his greatest performances, what might spring to mind? Scarface and the iconic “Say hello to my little friend”? Maybe The Godfather Part 2 with “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart!”
Personally I’ve always loved his turn in The Devil’s Advocate and his final monologue in front of Keanu Reeves that includes one of the more colourful descriptions of the Christian God you’ll encounter in a movie – “He’s a tight-ass! He’s a sadist! He’s an ABSENTEE LANDLORD!” But then maybe you’re more a fan of his much-lauded performances in Heat, or Serpico?
But would you think of Carlito’s Way? Would you rate that as one of his best roles? This one has never seemed to feature heavily when folks think of Pacino’s back catalogue, and that’s a shame because this Brian De Palma directed quasi-gangster story has a whole lot to offer. Carlito’s Way follows the titular Carlito, recently released from prison thanks to the efforts of his crooked lawyer, Kleinfeld (Sean Penn – Milk, Mystic River), who decides that he’s done with being a gangster. He wants to go straight so he can earn enough money to move away from the big city and spend his retirement renting cars to tourists.
But, as the man himself once said “Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in!” and Carlito finds that while he might be done with the streets, the streets aren’t done with him, and enemies both old and new, on both sides of the law, won’t let him forget his past, and try to deny him the happily-ever-after they don’t think he’s earned.
Pacino’s trademark swagger and energy oozes from every scene as he plays Carlito with seemingly effortless confidence, imbuing him with a curious mix of violence, cynicism and hope. His opening tirade in front of the judge and prosecutor who put him in jail drips sarcasm as he claims that “…my time in the sterling Correctional facilities of Greenhaven and Sing Sing has not been in vain. I’ve been cured! Born again, like the Watergaters”, only for him to flip it on his head as he admits that he does want to leave it all behind, and despite his history of violence and drug dealing and who knows what else, you can’t help but root for him.
Available as a bundle of both UHD and Blu-ray from Arrow Video, this now thirty year old film looks great. Given the age of the film, and the stylistic choices of the director, don’t go in expecting a pin-sharp presentation even in 4K. There’s a moderate dose of film grain on display, but not so much that it stops you being able to pick out every bullet hole and crease in Carlito’s signature black leather coat.
The Blu-ray in this release is where the majority of the special features can be found. The UHD disc contains both of the commentary tracks, one featuring author/critic Matt Zoller Seitz, who has written about director Wes Anderson and about the TV series The Sopranos. The other commentary track features Doctor Dougles Keesey, who has written about De Palma’s filmography. His commentary track runs at the start of the film, and then picks up again at the end, which is the first time I’ve ever encountered a “select scenes” commentary track in a film! The two commentaries are definitely worth a listen, being very different in tone and the way they look at the film.
The rest of the features are Arrow’s usual fare, which is to say they’re extensive. There are interviews with cast and crew, a look at De Palma’s career by critic David Edelstein, a making-of, a look at the film’s locations, trailers, deleted scenes and more. The Limited Edition release even has a reversible sleeve, seven postcards, a poster and a collector’s booklet. Everything you could ever want to know about this film is here.
Fans of De Palma and Pacino’s filmographies should give this one a look, and this new version from Arrow will hopefully introduce this movie to a whole new generation of fans who will learn for themselves why Carlito’s Way deserves to be mentioned alongside Pacino’s other best known films.
Carlito’s Way is out on Limited Edition UHD + Blu-ray on 25th September from Arrow Video.