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Film Review: Carlito's Way

This is a magnificent (and somewhat underrated) film, directed by Brian De Palma. More nuanced than Scarface and The Untouchables, it's also better acted. All the main cast are fantastic: Pacino, seemingly relishing his role, is much better here than he was in his previous film Scent of a Woman; Penelope Ann Miller as disenchanted old flame Gail; Luis Guzman and John Leguizamo as colourful gangsters; and not least Sean Penn, who does a stunning job as the utterly unscrupulous, sleazy, flash underworld lawyer Kleinfeld. Set in the '70s, the period is believably depicted via clothing, vehicles and hairstyles. Pacino's character is Carlito Brigante, a gang member in Spanish Harlem who was sent down for life five years previously for murder and drug running.

In the opening sequence, we see Brigante executing a rambling monologue to a resolutely unimpressed judge, about how he's a changed, and vindicated, man. Warming to his theme, he gives an increasingly overblown speech about his childhood, life chances, and how he's now ‚Äúrehabilitated, reinvigorated and re-assimilated‚ÄĚ. He thanks the chief investigator for supplying tainted evidence, the appeals court for reversing the judge's sentence, and the Almighty for allowing all this to come to pass. Brigante's smirking lawyer, Kleinfeld, has got him freed on a technicality, and along with the judge and everyone else in the courtroom, believes that Carlito's diatribe is merely so much bluster.

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