- Brian De Palma
In May 1980, a Cuban man named Tony Montana (Al Pacino) claims asylum, in Florida, USA, and is in search of the “American Dream” after departing Cuba in the Mariel boatlift of 1980. When questioned by three tough-talking INS officials, Montana is detained on suspicion of apolitical criminal activities, in a camp called ‘Freedomtown’ with other Cubans, under the local I-95 expressway while the government evaluates their visa petitions.
To be released after 30 days of governmental dithering and camp rumors, and be given green cards, Montana, with the help of his best friend and former Cuban Army buddy Manny Ray (Steven Bauer), kills a former aide to Fidel Castro, Emilio Rebenga (Roberto Contreras) during a riot at Freedomtown. The murder of Rebenga was requested by Frank López, a wealthy, politically astute man who deals cars and trades in cocaine, as Rebenga had tortured López’s brother to death while still in Cuba years earlier.
After getting their Green Cards, Tony Montana and Manny Ray find work as dishwashers in a corner sandwich/taco shop. Some weeks later, a López henchman and underboss, Omar Suárez (F. Murray Abraham), the man who contacted Manny for the Rebenga hit job, offers Tony and Manny a job unloading marijuana from a boat from Mexco to arrive in Miami the following night for 0 each. Tony insults Suárez by turning down the job over the little money they will receive, so Suárez sets him up to pick up two kilograms of cocaine with over ,000 from a Colombian dealer, named Hector The Toad in which Tony and Manny will receive ,000.
That weekend, Tony, Manny, and two other Marielitos in his crew, Angel Fernández (Pepe Serna), and Chi Chi (Ángel Salazar) then set out to meet “Hector the Toad” (Al Israel) at a seedy motel on the boulevard in Miami Beach. While Manny and Chi Chi wait in the car on the street, Tony and Angel go up to the hotel room to meet with Hector. The meeting does not go smoothly, as Tony grows irritated with Hector, who is slow to give him the cocaine in exchange for money. Suddenly, Tony and Angel are double-crossed by the Colombian. It becomes apparent that Hector does not intend to sell Tony the cocaine he has; he only wants to steal the money Tony has been given to purchase the stuff. To convince Tony to give over the cash, Angel is dismembered in a shower stall with a chainsaw by Hector. After Angel is dead, Tony, about to suffer the same fate, is saved by Chi Chi and Manny who arrive in the nick of time to gun down Hector’s henchmen. Manny receives a minor bullet wound in his shoulder. Hector escapes but Tony vengefully confronts him in the street and shoots him dead in the middle of the crowded Ocean Drive, the now famous Miami South Beach boulevard. Tony and his crew then get away with both the cocaine and the money before the police arrive.
The following night, Tony then impresses the money’s owner, López (Robert Loggia), with not only the return of his cash but with a gift of the coke, a prize from the botched rip off. Frank immediately hires Tony’s crew into his criminal hierarchy, a representative of a Cuban mafia. But during this initial get together Tony also meets Lopez’s lady, the blond and beautiful Elvira Hancock (Michelle Pfeiffer), who will eventually become the source of tension between the two men. Taking Tony and Manny out to a local nightclub called The Babylon Club where Frank frequently attends, Tony and Manny see first-hand the high standard of living they have come to acquire. Thus, Montana begins his rise through the ranks of the Miami cocaine underworld.
Three months later, Tony Montana attempts to make amends meet to his estranged family. It is implied that Tony’s father, a former U.S. Navy sailor, abandoned the family when Tony was little. Since then, his mother and younger sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) have been living in Miami for the past several years. Tony shows up at his mother’s and Gina’s house one evening, fashionably dressed, and offers them ,000 in cash for financial support. Gina is overjoyed to see her older brother whom they have not seen for five years. But Tony’s mother has only scorn for him since he turned his back on them many years ago for the quick and easy life of crime back in Cuba, and wants nothing to do with Tony, and she is too full of pride to accept his money despite being financially stricken. But Gina, who idolizes her brother, follows him outside where he slips her the money secretly. Gina tells Tony that she wants in on the flashy life that he has going for him. Tony’s love for Gina is clearly genuine for she’s the only person that he trusts, and is also very protective of her. Afterwords, Manny makes a comment to Tony about how attractive Gina is, but Tony angrily warns him to avoid courting her.
Several months later, while on business in Bolivia to help Omar set up a new distribution deal for López, Tony feels that Frank is “soft,” and begins to show his defiance to López’s authority by negotiating a deal with Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar), the ruthless and powerful Bolivian drug lord. Sosa finds out during the trip that Omar was an informant for the police several years ago and has him murdered to show Tony his intolerance for disloyalty. Sosa agrees to bring Tony on board with him as his North American distributor of cocaine and other drugs. But upon their agreement, Sosa sternly warns Tony never to betray or double-cross him in any way. Upon his return to Florida, Tony gets into trouble with Frank over the deal, who accuses him of “stealing” it. Tony then leaves López to strike out on his own. This allows him to seek out Elvira to whom he makes an unexpected marriage proposal. López is none too happy and decides to take out Tony.
At the Babylon nightclub, Tony is shaken down by a Miami detective, Mel Bernstein (Harris Yulin). He proposes to “tax” Tony on his transactions in return for police protection and information. Tony is distracted by the sight of Gina dancing with a local drug dealer. He follows the two to a restroom stall where he berates Gina for her promiscuous conduct. He asks Manny to take her home. On the way Gina admits she is attracted to Manny. Manny wards her off, mindful of Tony’s extreme protectiveness.
Back at the nightclub, Tony is attacked by two gunmen but manages to escape killing the two gunmen despite being wounded by a gunshot to his left shoulder. Suspecting Frank sent Bernstein and the hitmen, Tony asks one of his bodyguards, Nick The Pig, to call Frank after Tony arrives at Frank’s office at 3:00 a.m. that very night and inform him the hit failed. Tony, Manny and Chi Chi visit Frank at his car dealership back office, who is with Det. Bernstein. Nick calls Frank, who confirms his involvement by playing the call off as Elvira telling him she’ll be late home. Frank begs for Tony’s forgiveness before Manny kills him. Tony then kills Bernstein.
His problems apparently solved, Tony begins a profitable relationship with Sosa, marries Elvira, buys a new mansion complete with surveillance cameras and numerous luxury items, and Tony even sets Gina up in business with her own beauty salon. Manny and Gina soon begin a romantic relationship, but they keep it secret from Tony who had firmly stated to Gina that he does not want her dating anybody.
But as Tony’s business grows, so does his cocaine addiction and paranoia, and he begins to spiral out of control… the beginning of the end. His wife, who becomes further addicted to cocaine, becomes bored and emotionally distant. Tony’s banker informs him that he will be charging higher fees, up to 10%, for laundering the increasing flow of drug money. After Manny convinces him that he has a way to save money on the laundering of the coke cash, Tony is arrested in a sting operation by Manny’s contact, an undercover cop named Mel Seidenbaum. After posting a million bail, Tony’s corrupt lawyer, Sheiffeld, tells him that although he may get him cleared of the corruption and money laundering charges, Tony will probably have to serve at least three years in prison for tax evasion.
After hearing about Tony’s arrest, Sosa, not wanting to lose his main distributor, steps in to intervene by offering Tony a way out of going to prison. He calls Tony back to Bolivia where he introduces him to his cocaine “board of directors” a group that includes Bolivia’s military chief, and a mysterious American, known only as being “from Washington”. We assume he is a corrupt CIA officer because Sosa guarantees that the IRS will not be able to send Tony to jail. In exchange, Tony must assist in the assassination of a Bolivian journalist attempting to expose Sosa, his partners, and the ongoing corruption in the Bolivian government involving drug trafficking. Sosa sends one of his right-hand men, Alberto the Shadow (Mark Margolis), with Tony to assist with the killing. Tony is clearly disturbed by this since it is against his custom to kill a man whom he sees as a civilian, plus Tony has never killed anybody who has wronged him personally. But seeing no other options, Tony reluctantly agrees to help Sosa with the hit.
In the meantime, Tony’s marriage with Elvira finally ends when after a bitter altercation at a local restaurant, she finally expresses her contempt for him and the lives he had led her on, and walks out of the restaurant, and out of his life.
Tony, with his henchmen, Chi Chi and Reuben, and Alberto travel to New York City and Alberto places a bomb under the journalist’s car in with the intention of detonating it outside the UN building before the journalist addresses the General Assembly and exposes Sosa’s cartel. But Tony has second thoughts when the journalist unexpectedly picks up his wife and children. Tony, saying that the team was only supposed to kill only the journalist, shoots Alberto to prevent the journalist’s family from being killed. When authorities later discover the unexploded bomb underneath the journalist’s car, they realize that an execution had been planned, and Sosa is the primary suspect; thus sealing Tony’s fate with Sosa.
Returning to Miami, Tony discovers that both his sister Gina and right-hand man Manny have disappeared. Tony has long harbored an apparent unnatural obsession for his sister and is overly protective of her for reasons that he may not understand himself. Tony visits his mother again where she angrily tells him about Gina’s descent and accuses him of corrupting her with his flashy lifestyle. After getting Gina’s home address from Mrs. Montana, who doesn’t know who else lives there, Tony goes to the house in nearby Palm Grove. Much to Tony’s surprise, Manny unexpectedly opens the door. Tony then sees Gina in a night gown at the top of the stairs. Enraged that another man has obviously slept with his sister, Tony shoots Manny dead. Hysterical, Gina reveals to Tony that they had just been married and were going to surprise him. Tony has Gina taken back to his mansion where all hell is about to break loose.
In revenge for Tony’s failure to kill the journalist, who has now exposed Sosa and his partners to the world as drug lords, Sosa sends a swarm of assassins to Tony’s mansion to kill him. Sitting at his desk snorting from an enormous pile of cocaine, Tony realizes and regrets what he has done to his best friend. When Tony is contemplating this, Sosa’s army of assassins have breached the main gate at Tony’s estate and have quietly begin to kill all the guards around the mansion. At the same time, a distraught Gina enters Tony’s office armed with a pistol to confront him with the truth about his feelings for her. She now realizes that Tony loves her in an unnatural way and demands, at gun point, that he make love to her. She begins to shoot at him while demanding he take her. A Sosa assassin hiding on the balcony, thinking Gina is shooting at him, leaps in and riddles her with bullets. Tony, enraged, throws the man off the balcony and kills him with his sub machine gun creating a storm of chaos at the mansion. At this point, Sosa’s combined army of Colombian, Bolivian, and Latin American assassins, robbed of the element of surprise by the gunshots, swarm in to attack Tony’s mansion from all directions.
As all his men are being killed, Tony, still delirious from the cocaine, leans over Gina’s dead body begging for forgiveness, at the same time the hit men break into the mansion, Chi Chi opens fire with an Uzi as he falls back and ends up banging on the door to Tony’s office (it has been locked from the inside by Gina who was planning to kill Tony). Unfortunately, Tony does not seem to hear him. Chi Chi is shot in the back and Tony sees it on the security cameras.
As the hit men prepare to storm his office, Tony finally snaps out of his drug-induced stance, arms himself with an M16 rifle with an under mounted M203 grenade launcher and blows down the door. A huge climatic gun battle begins as Tony takes position atop the grand staircase and guns down dozens of Sosa’s men who try to storm the balcony. Tony is hit a number of times by return fire, but he keeps shooting. With most of Sosa’s men dead, Tony, strung-out on drugs, defiantly yells out at the assassins, not realizing that The Skull, Sosa’s chief assassin and leader of the assassination battalion, had sneaked into the room behind him. The Skull shoots Tony in the back with a 12-Gauge shotgun. Tony falls off the balcony and into a reflecting pool at the base of the grand staircase. In the final shot, as the Skull and the few surviving assassins look on, Tony Montana lies dead… face down in the reflecting pool which is located below a large brass globe that says: THE WORLD IS YOURS.
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio