Carlito’s Way, 1993.
Directed by Brian De Palma.
Starring Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Penelope Ann Miller, Luis Guzman, and John Leguizamo.
Sure, Carlito’s Way has made its way to 4K Ultra HD before, but Arrow pulled out all the stops here with an improved visual presentation as well as a big batch of new extras, including two commentary tracks and four featurettes. The legacy bonus features were ported over too. Highly recommended for fans of this film.
I suppose gangster movies will never go away. Carlito’s Way, directed by Brian De Palma and starring Al Pacino, Sean Penn, and Penelope Ann Miller in key roles, occupies what I’d consider to be the second tier of such films. Pacino and De Palma’s first collaboration, Scarface, is also what I’d consider second tier.
The first tier, of course, is occupied by movies like The Godfather films (the first two, at least) and Goodfellas. The main thing that I think holds Carlito’s Way back from first tier status is its lack of a strong arc for the main character.
Pacino takes on the role of Carlito Brigante (I’ll sidestep the issue of him playing a Puerto Rican character; it was a different era), who is released from prison in 1975 after serving 5 years of a 30-year sentence thanks to his lawyer, David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn).
Kleinfeld springs Carlito on a technicality, but his client takes the opportunity of the court hearing to swear to the judge that he will walk the straight and narrow from now on. Kleinfeld applauds his acting job when they leave the courthouse, but Carlito says he’s serious about it: his plan is to scrape together $75,000 so he can buy a car rental business in Florida and get away from crime-ridden New York City.
Of course, his only option is to go back to his old neighborhood in Harlem, and he soon finds himself slipping into his old ways. With David’s help, he buys a stake in a nightclub, planning on making enough from that to realize his dream. The club is full of various hoodlums every night, which doesn’t help the situation.
Meanwhile, Carlito finds his old girlfriend, Gail (Penelope Ann Miller), and renews his relationship with her. He wants to take her with him to Florida, and she’s happy to see him leave his old life behind, if he can.
However, Carlito has a code of conduct (his way, so to put it), and he says he’s in debt to David for getting him out of prison early. He sticks with David even as his lawyer begins sliding into the same world Carlito occupies, and the question becomes whether he can get out of New York City before the trouble David stirs up brings him down too.
In the end, Carlito is pretty much a one-note character, which is accentuated by Pacino playing him in that same over-the-top tone he seemed to make his trademark at one point. It’s hard for me to believe sometimes that this is the same guy who once played a nuanced role like Michael Corleone.
Sean Penn is fabulous, however, as the smarmy lawyer, and Penelope Ann Miller delivers an interesting spin on the “good girl” character who knows damn well what her boyfriend has done and supports him in his effort to walk the straight and narrow. Their performances, as well as De Palma’s always dependable excellent directing skills, still elevate this movie to great status, even if it remains on the second tier of gangster films in my book.
This isn’t the first time Carlito’s Way has been released on 4K Ultra HD, but Arrow has presented a new restoration of the film here, carrying that version over to the accompanying Blu-ray platter too. This is my first time watching this movie on home video, so I don’t have a comparison point to the previous 4K and Blu-ray editions, but my understanding is that this one is a bit better in the visual department versus its predecessors.
However, Arrow also commissioned several new extras for this edition, starting with a pair of commentary tracks found on both discs. The first one features author Matt Zoller Seitz (The Wes Anderson Collection and The Soprano Sessions books), who serves up an informative discussion about the movie, from its place in film history to the novels by Judge Edwin Torres that it was based on.
The other track, by Dr. Douglas Keesey, author of Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen: A Life in Film, is only available for. Certain scenes, but it’s just as insightful as the first commentary. Combined, the two tracks are a must-listen for fans of the film.
Arrow also assembled a new 12.5-minute interview with the aforementioned Judge Edwin Torres. In the 1970s, he wrote the novels Carlito’s Way and its sequel, After Hours, and the film took its cues from bits of both books. (De Palma and others decided against calling the movie After Hours because of the 1985 film by Martin Scorsese; I think Carlito’s Way is the better title anyway.)
Torres discusses his career as an attorney and a judge, which provided plenty of fodder for his stories, as well as his thoughts on seeing his novels turned into a movie many years later. (Spoiler alert: He was really happy about it.)
Another new extra puts the editing of the film on display in the 17-minute Cutting Carlito’s Way. Many people believe that filmmaking is editing, and that idea is presented here as editors Bill Pankow and Kristina Boden discuss how the movie came together during post-production.
The final two new bonus features are an 18-minute appreciation by film critic David Edelstein and All The Stitches In The World: The Locations Of Carlito’s Way, which runs 3 minutes and revisits the major shooting locations as they look today.
As far as archival material goes, Arrow also threw in a 5.5-minute interview with De Palma, a 34.5-minute making-of, a batch of deleted scenes, an old school promotional featurette (5 minutes), two trailers, and an image gallery.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★