Say hello to my *detailed* little friend!
Flashback to 2002, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City had just hit the PlayStation 2. Somehow, 10-year-old me was able to get my sneaky mits on a copy of the highly controversial, Mature-rated title, and naturally, I became utterly obsessed with the game. Not just for its copious amounts of violence and profanity, but its characters, Miami setting, and '80s-based soundtrack stole my heart. It wasn't until months later that a friend told me the game was heavily inspired by a film named Scarface. Of course, our sly asses were able to procure a copy of the film on VHS for some afterhours viewing. Needless to say, we were disappointed. I remember thinking, "How could such an exciting masterpiece of a game be inspired by such a boring 3-hour talk-fest of a film?"
Looking back now, I know I was a foolish little shit and in the years following my initial viewing of Brian De Palma's crime classic, I have developed the utmost respect for the film and everyone involved in its production. So when the opportunity reared its beautiful head for me to provide a review of Universal's latest 4K Ultra HD release of the film, I excitedly accepted the challenge of tackling one of the most iconic films ever made.
I'm going to assume that most of you who're reading this review have already seen Scarface and are just wanting to find out if this new release is worth the upgrade. Well, the short answer is hell yes, you should go buy it right now, but if you'd like a more detailed analysis of the limited edition box set/4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, read on.
The 1983 film tells the story of Cuban refugee Tony Montana (Al Pacino) who arrives in 1980s Miami along with hundreds of other refugees during the Mariel Boat Lift. Forced into an overcrowded tent city under the busy highways of Miami, Tony and his right hand man Manny Ribera (Steven Bauer) have a dream to be rich and powerful. They kickstart this dream by knocking off a snitch during a refugee riot in the encampment. Let loose upon the streets of Little Cuba in the South Miami area, Montana begins his rise to ill-gotten fame and fortune by running coke for drug kingpin Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia). From there it's up, up and away for Montana, as he begins doing his own deals with South American cartels and taking whatever he pleases, including Frank's position and his coke loving wife Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer).
Of course, once you're at the tippy-top of the Miami drug trade and a self-proclaimed owner of the world, the only way to go is down, and there are plenty of forces that conspire to make Tony hit rock bottom, and hit hard. Blinded by his own greatness and plagued by self-destructive behavior, the powerful drug lord pushes away his wife, sister and all of his friends (well, except for his little one), and his life of excess eventually becomes his downfall when he makes the fatal decision to "fuck" kingpin Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar).
There's a reason why Scarface has stood the test of time as one of the greatest crime stories ever told. While it's not exactly the thinking man's gangster flick when compared a title like The Godfather (but why would you want to compare the two anyways), Scarface goes for the throat with visceral violence and shocks, and there's also the fact that De Palma directed the shit out of Oliver Stone’s tight and concise script.
Viewing the film for the first time in at least 10 years, especially with this glorious new restoration, I developed even more of an appreciation for it. I took in everything, the craning camera shots of sun-drench Miami, the colorful wardrobes and decor; I was just entranced by all of the little details. This could also be due to the fact that everything is presented so much clearer with this new 4K presentation. But I will say there's nothing more that I appreciate about this film than its performances, especially from Pacino, who absolutely loses himself within the role of the titular character. His performance alone makes this film worth watching, and if I'm being honest, I hate watching Tony Montana die at the end, even if he is just an empty shell of a man by the end of the film. Maybe it's just my increasingly bitter outlook on life that makes me hate seeing the "bad guy" die...
Alright, enough talking about a film we've all seen a multitude of times and onto the transfer and extras included. Universal's three-disc "The World is Yours" set includes 4K UHD and Blu-ray versions of the film, the 1932 classic film of the same name on Blu-ray, with a digital copy and replica statue rounding out the package. If you don't wish to go for broke, a two-disc Scarface Gold Edition 4K Ultra HD release is also available, which includes everything mentioned above aside from the 1932 film and the collectible statue.
I'll start by saying the 4K UHD disc is miles above any previous release of the film, especially the 2011 Blu-ray. The film has been lovingly remastered and is totally devoid of the digital tampering issues, such as edge enhancement and random DNR, that afflicted the previous release. The use of HDR is mindblowing, with colors literally popping off the screen in rich and vibrant fashion. This is especially noticeable in the Babylon Club scenes, the neon lights of the red light district and in the red carpeting of Tony's mansion. Fine details are on full display and insanely impressive here, to the point where I was noticing things I never had before. I could literally see every little granule of cocaine! Black levels are spot on, deep and silky with no crush issues. Film grain is kept at a healthy level, and while the grain my be a bit too thick for some tastes, I feel it perfectly compliments the overall aesthetic of the cinematic experience. For me, the only thing that keeps the encoding from reaching absolute perfection is that the softness embedded in the original camera negative is a bit much in some scenes, but I'd have to really be grasping at straws to hold that against this release.
Speaking solely of the 4K UHD disc, Universal has included two audio tracks: a brand-new DTS:X mix and the traditional DTS-HD MA 2.0 stereo track. Personally, I prefer the latter, as it presents the film's original intended audio mix, but both are great in their own right. As expected, the DTS:X track is punchy where it needs to be, especially during the riot at "Freedom Town," the helicopters flying over during Tony's visit with the cartels in Bolivia, and in the final firefight. Overall, it's a spacious and bass-y track that makes great use of the back end and surround speakers. Both tracks features crisp, clear dialogue and dynamic sound effects. Like I said, I prefer the original sound mixing, but you can't go wrong with either of these tracks. Of course, this is all dependent on what kind of home theater setup you're sporting.
In terms of special features, we are presented with a single new one: a Scarface 35th anniversary reunion from 2018 wherein De Palma, Pacino, Pfeiffer and Bauer look back on the creation of the film. It's a pleasant little half-hour-ish Q&A that covers various on set moments, making the film, and more. All of the other special features included on the disc have been ported over from the previous Blu-ray and DVD releases. The original 1932 film, which is every bit as entertaining as its 1983 counterpart and directed by Howard Hawks, is included on Blu-ray instead of the previously included DVD version, and features both the theatrical version or an uncensored cut of the film.
Other Special Features Include:
The Scarface Phenomenon (SD 39 mins)
The World of Tony Montana (SD 12 mins)
The Rebirth (SD 10 mins)
The Acting (SD 15 mins)
The Creating (SD 30 mins)
Deleted Scenes (SD 22 mins)
Scarface: The TV Version (SD 3 mins)
The Making of Scarface: The Video Game (SD 12 mins)
The statue included in the limited edition set actually surprised me in terms of quality. I half expected a hollow and cheaply made plastic piece of junk, and that's certainly not what I got. The collectible is a detailed, weighty and well-crafted scale replica of the "The World is Yours" statue seen in Tony's mansion. Both the inclusion of the '32 film and the statue alone make the limited edition release worth the price of upgrading from the standalone 4K UHD Blu-ray.
Scarface is undoubtedly a classic work of cinema that still holds up 36 years later, and Universal's new 4K remaster is wholly spectacular in every sense of the word. Fans who have been let down by previous releases will undoubtedly have little to no gripes with the impressive new transfer. Scarface has never looked better and I applaud Universal Studios for their fantastic work.
Whether you choose to go with the limited edition set with the statue or if you just want Scarface on 4K UHD without the collectible and 1932 original film, this is a no-brainer and belongs in your collection! Highly recommended!