I’m not a big fan of gangster films, so I’m only prepared to watch the very best. Most such films are violent and gruesome, which turns me off (particularly the latter), and Scarface is no exception. However, it’s surprisingly moralistic. As Tony Montana (Al Pacino, of course) says…
I never fucked anybody over in my life that didn't have it coming to 'em. You got that? All I have in this world is my balls and my word and I don't break 'em for no one.
… and he’s right: at least by his terms. Scarface is also an interesting study of the drugs industry. Of course, it’s hard to know how accurate it is (I suspect real drug dealing is much more mundane than the glamorous life here), but nevertheless, there was more than one scene that reminded me of the interesting study of drug dealing in Freakonomics, with the price of risk being openly discussed.
The film runs much as you’d expect: rise to power followed by fall from grace, but it does it with style, cheap 80s music and cheap 80s fashions. Unlike Roger Ebert, I don’t think it’s a classic (although, as I said, I don’t like the genre much anyway), but Scarface is still one of Pacino’s strongest performances: his jutting jaw and accent so parodied now that it’s hard to watch without being amused. It’s still a strong film.