"DO NOT BE LIKE TONY" SAYS BACK-COUNTRY POPULIST
"Brian De Palma’s Scarface is lightning in a bottle," states Sealgair MacUistain in this week's Thursday film review at Back-Country Populist. "It is a film that resonated immediately with the conscience and subconscious of the American audience and still accomplishes the same today. With a killer soundtrack that captures the merry and vapid decadence of the 1980’s, first rate camera work from De Palma and crew (seriously, De Palma is extremely good at visual story telling. He is technically sound.), and a tour de force of acting and story telling, Scarface is consistently ranked among the best of not only crime films, but films in general."
In his review, MacUistain states upfront that while Scarface "is a totally secular movie that has nothing ostensibly to do with Christianity," he will proceed to use the film to explore "the great modern American heresy" that being a good person will get you to heaven. "Bottom line up front: being likable, or 'a good person', or 'nice' is not what saves you," MacUistain explains. "You are still broken and in need of salvation outside of yourself. If you rely on yourself alone, you will perish."
Delving into the character of Tony Montana, MacUistain writes:
People are wont to admire Tony Montana’s rise to power and his “heroic” last stand. His hard work, can-do attitude, and confidence inspire a lot of people. Tony feels that he and other hard working people are getting played by the real crooks who are at the top of the pyramid. At first glance, Tony Montana is absolutely someone to admire.
That is, of course, until you realize that all of his decisions led him to being shot dozens of times and floating face down in a pool of his own blood. Additionally, he has killed or driven away anyone who ever cared about him.
Tony Montana has many admirable attributes. He is incredibly smart, hard working, enterprising, charismatic, loyal, and charming. However, he uses those talents improperly, to say the least. Speaking of talents, I do believe there is a passage of scripture related to this. Why don’t you go ahead and open up the Good Book to Luke 19:11-17 and read the Parable of the Talents? How did Tony use his talents? His mother disowns him. He kills his best friend because he fell in love with his sister. He gets his sister killed after ruining her life and Tony probably suffers from some sort of malformed sexual attraction to his sister. His wife leaves him. His allies all turn on him. Every friend and employee he has is brutally killed. Yes, you went mighty wrong there Tony!
Despite all of his talents, he is not moral. He is not virtuous. “What? Sealgair you hack! You don’t think the attributes of hard work, loyalty, charisma, and devotion are moral? You’re a fraud! I’m going to write about you in the comments about how wrong and stupid you are!”
Comment away, my hypothetical friend! Let me also point out to you that those traits, admirable though they may be, do not equate to morality nor virtue. Hitler was hard working and devoted. Ted Bundy was charismatic. Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino had a damn sixteen pack, admirable as that is. None of that makes those fellows virtuous or moral. None of those traits mean anything if they are not used for an objective good. You are either on the wide path to destruction, floating around caring only about yourself, or you are on the narrow path oriented to Christ. Tony, obviously, is a selfish and loathsome irredeemable person on the wide path toward destruction.
Scarface is a morality tale. It is a cautionary tale. It is very plain and simple. Do not be like Tony.
After looking at the selfish ways Tony Montana relates to his wife, his mother, his sister, and his best friend, MacUistain continues:
But wait! Tony has a code! He refuses to kill children! And that is what really triggers his demise! Well, you are on the right track, but that is not really the whole story. Yes, it is true that Tony (correctly, and indeed morally) refuses to kill children. He was about to willingly assassinate a dude dedicating his life to stopping the plague of drugs, but he refused to go through with the assassination because children would have been caught in the cross hairs. Look, if the standard we use for “good dude” is comprised solely of “he does not kill children” then we have a lot of work to do as a society.