A ‘Scarface’ Reboot Might be the Perfect Way to Test Today’s Cinema

Scarface Remake
Photo: Universal Pictures

1932’s Scarface, Howard Hawks‘ prohibition era tale of a gangster’s rise and fall was loosely based on the life of Al Capone and starred Paul Muni in the title role. In 1983, Brian De Palma directed a remake from a script by Oliver Stone and starring Al Pacino as a Cuban immigrant. Unlike the first film’s focus on bootlegging, this one used cocaine to tell it’s story of how power and greed corrupts.

Both films are products of their time, both cinematically and socially. Now, another remake is in the works at Universal Pictures with Pablo Larrain (No) aboard to direct with a screenplay from Paul Attanasio (Donnie Brasco) who rewrote David Ayer‘s (Training Day, End of Watch) original draft. Word is the story will center on a Mexican immigrant and his rise in the criminal underworld, set in present day Los Angeles. The lead character will keep the first name Tony, but like De Palma’s film changed the last name from Camonte to Montana, he will have a different family name.

Apparently this new version will be a more mythic origin story, exploring where Tony’s physical and emotional wounds come from and how they shaped him as a man. Speaking of which, you see that “X” on Muni’s face in the image above? Remember how excited everyone got when Martin Scorsese used Xs in The Departed, most often to foreshadow a character’s demise? Well now you know where he got that from.

As for the lead role, there’s a wealth of prominent Latino stars for Larrain to choose from for the title role from Oscar Isaac, Edgar Ramirez and Michael Pena to the star of his Oscar-nominated breakout feature No, Gael García Bernal. The Wrap reports, however, the producers are also open to casting a complete unknown in the name of authenticity.

The question is, will this film find a way to separate itself from today’s studio schlock or will it fall lock-step in line? I’m not at all against a remake of Scarface. It’s not as if we’re talking about a story that’s unique as much as we’re talking about a story that can create a unique character, living within a corrupt and criminal world. The thought of the “American Dream” has almost become a myth unto itself and this is a story that can tap directly into that idea as well as move the dial when it comes to today’s cinema away from the glossy sheen of digital filmmaking and give us something that feels real. Larrain’s outside approach may just what the production needed.

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