Movie Review: 'Carlito's Way'

Review of this sadly under rated gangster flick.


I’m not big on the whole “emotions” thing. I’m convinced they are just a fad. So it really takes a lot to make me cry at the end of a film. A great sound track, memorable characters, great acting, a heart pounding story, and a shockingly melancholy finale.

This film has all of those things.

Based on a true story, which was turned into the book “After Hours,” “Carlito’s way” has a seemingly simple storyline that turns out to be far different than what you would expect. What starts of looking like standard gangster fare turns into a deep morality tale, which is then transformed into a shadowy suspense drama, and finally, a tragic tear jerker.

Carlito’s way begins with an infamous mob hitman, Carlito Brigante (Al Pacino) being released from prison after doing only five years on the inside. Apparently, he killed a lot of people, but his grimy, coke-head, lawyer, Dave Klienfeld (Sean Penn) got him off the hook easy. Wow, Sean Penn playing an unlikable character, that’s REALLY new.

While Klienfeld and even the judge are convinced Carlito will be back behind bars in a matte of weeks, Carlito makes a solemn vow: He will never again commit a crime.

Carlito immediately opens a club, called el paradiso, and begins to save up. He is hoping to raise enough money to fulfill his lifelong dream, a bed and breakfast in the Bahamas. 

But plans are just lists of things that will go wrong. The DA, named Norwalk, decides Carlito is definitely up to something, and sends some of his old friends (Notably, a very greasy and infirm Viggo Mortenson) to spy on him. Carlito, when trying to find the girl he was in love with before prison, named Gail (Penelope Ann Miller) but discovers she now works as a stripper in a nasty dive. Carlito tries to help his cousin make a “sale” which turns out to be a cocaine deal that ends in a shootout. And he earns the Ire of the films famously obnoxious villain, “Benny Blanco from the Bronx.”

But things can always get worse. And in this case, they do. Klienfeld rips off a mob boss, who swears that if Klienfeld doesn’t bust him out of prison, his goons will kill him. Klienfeld, who is convinced the mobster will kill him once he is free, asks for Carlito to help him transport the fugitive. This puts him in a bad spot: Does he betray the man who got him out of prison to fulfill his dream, or put his life’s work at risk to save the untrustworthy savior?

For every good film Brian Depalma directs, he directs three bad one. So I had very low expectations when I first taped this movie. But on watching it, I was pleasantly surprised. The plot, though it may sound cliché, has plenty of twists and turns, that keep the viewer on their toes. The dialogue is excellent, and all three actors really bring their characters to life with astounding performances. Depalma uses his experience at making close-quarter thrillers to great effect in the last twenty minutes, which takes place in a crowded train station. This is a magnificent movie, which I was simply flabbergasted by. I highly recommend it. 9/10.

And seriously, watch out for the ending. That was unsettlingly sad.   

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