DE PALMA'S "TECHNIQUE IS IMMERSIVE & OPERATIC", WHICH SUITS THESE CHARACTERS
Moviehole's Colin Moore bids a happy 20th anniversary to Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way, finding "too much to like" to put up a fight when dubbing it among the best films of the 1990s. "Pacino is electric in the title role," writes Moore, "strutting the streets of New York in a knee-length leather coat, playing it cool, politely turning down illicit job offers; one of his most sympathetic roles to date." Here's an excerpt from Moore's article:
But even Gail can’t protect Carlito from what’s coming ~ the shysters, former crew members and youthful entrepreneurs of sin that populate mid-70s Spanish Harlem. The most colorful of these entrepreneurs is Benny Blanco from the Bronx (John Leguizamo), a volatile rising street hustler who mixes it up with Carlito in some of the film’s most memorable scenes.
“I don’t know, maybe there’s a mis-fuckin’ understanding here, I don’t know man. Maybe you don’t remember me. My name is Benny Blanco…”
“Maybe I don’t give a shit. Maybe I don’t remember the last time I blew my nose either.”
I chuckle at those moments but the language feels real, has slang and street color that’s both dangerous and funny. No surprise at their mixed effectiveness given that writer [Edwin] Torres walked those streets, he lived them, and channelled through screenwriter David Koepp (“Panic Room”) the dialogue seems honest. Nothing as iconic as, “Say hello to my little friend!” but “Here come da pain!” has a special place in many hearts, I’m sure. The cast is solid. From the majors to supporting players Viggo Mortensen and Luiz Guzmán as Pachanga, there’s not a loose brick in the wall. Leguizamo plays Benny like a knife with a slimy handle; if he can’t schmooze you with one end, he’ll stick you with the other. [Sean] Penn, not surprisingly, is a wonder as Kleinfeld, nothing less than mutated into the frizzy haired, deliciously corrupted lawyer that earned him Golden Globe and Chicago Film Critics Association acting nominations. Of course, in the hands of Brian De Palma, presentation is personality.
Like Spielberg and his often-assumed mentor, Hitchcock, the New Jersey born director De Palma (“Sisters,” “Mission Impossible”) is known for his visual style. Canted angles, 360-degree pans, extended takes ~ they’re ever present in “Carlito’s Way,” along with an Odessa Steps sequence that rivals his “Potemkin” shootout in “The Untouchables,” this time on the escalators of Grand Central Station. It’s here, in the club, and in the excellent (kick ass) pool-hall scene that you know exactly who is calling the shots. De Palma has a singular stamp. Given his earlier Pacino vehicle, “Scarface,” the director no doubt has experience delivering this world, of mansions and period style, of lives fueled by booze, drugs, narcissism and dreams. His technique is immersive and operatic, completely suited for these bold characters.