Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

Carlito's Way

Carlito's Way
Al Pacino, Sean Penn and Penelope Ann Miller

Rated: R for nudity, profanity and violence.
Reviewed by: Chris  
Release date: November 10, 1993 Released by: Universal Studios, Inc.

The story begins in 1975, told by Al Pacino as Latino drug dealer and murderer Carlito Brigante. He's let out of prison after serving only five years of a 30 year sentence because of an illegal wire tap. Carlito feels he owes his life to his lawyer, David Kleinfeld, and pledges his loyalty to him.

Sean Penn plays Kleinfeld with a curly do and wire rimmed glasses. He looks like Luke Spencer from General Hospital on a bad day.

Carlito dreams of earning $75,000 to by into a car rental business in the Bahamas. Until he's saved up the seed money, he runs a disco where all the up and coming young drug punks hang out. Carlito doesn't seem to think that owning a place where thugs congregate is a problem to his staying clean.

The new breed of pushers look up to Carlito as the big man around town; in fact, one calls him "the J.P. Morgan of smack." Carlito wants out of the drug business, but keeps the same sleazy friends and hangers on who want to drag him back into the life "...just like old times."

The one voice of reason in Carlito's vile and violent world is his girlfriend Gail, who is played by Penelope Ann Miller. She was a ballet student when Carlito was imprisoned and now she dances in a strip bar. She's vulnerable, but also realistic, and takes Carlito's dream with a grain of salt.

Adapted from New York Superior Court Judge Edwin Torres' novels, the characters are flamboyant and gritty. Penn is scary as the coke snorting lawyer who's crossed the line and Miller gives a strong performance as the girl who wants very badly to believe in her lover.

Pacino has played similar characters before and he has perfected the Latino accent and swagger of a self important man. He's more convincing in every scene.

Brian DePalma's direction is fast-paced and exciting. The New York streets, rain-soaked and grimy are the backdrop of the action. To the sound of a loud disco beat, the climax builds to a tense chase through subway cars, ending with a shoot-out at Grand Central Station. Like an old-fashioned gangster movie, this is really entertaining, explosive stuff.

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