THIS "TWO-DISC anniversary edition" of Brian De Palma's 1983 gangster remake has been sitting atop my tantalizing, teetering stack of DVDs since late September. It wasn't quite worth the wait. You might reasonably expect a full gamut of valuable extras and commentaries for one of the most influential films of the '80s. Not so. Instead, the bland making-of featurettes basically amount to an exercise in logrolling and ass kissery on the part of producer Robert Bregman, star Al Pacino, and others.
The best thing hereapart from the movie, of courseis a 20-minute, Def Jam-produced tribute to the film from various hip-hop artists and actors, who laud antihero Tony Montana's fresh-off-the-boat ambition and drive. "It's all about coming up," they say repeatedly, this nothing-to-everything theme evidently having great resonance to Snoop Dogg, Method Man, Ghostface Killah, Eve, Capone, Scarface (who adapted his nom de rap from you know who), Russell Simmons, and others. According to no less an authority than P. Diddy, Montana "was an upstanding gangster, which is a rare thing." Most everyone else is right on target about Scarface as a parable of unfettered American capitalism. All point not to the film's violence but to the moral: Montana becomes a monster who deserves to be destroyed; he's undone by his own excess.
Here are the guys you want doing the commentary to the film (there is none). It would have been a great example of a notion Roger Ebert has popularized: that ordinary fans should record their own MP3 commentaries to their favorite films in place of the generally dull encomiums and hollow praise"So-and-so was fabulous to work with, a real gentleman on the set!"that mark most DVD releases. (See Used Cars or any Kevin Smith film for a rare, welcome exception.)
Yet screenwriter Oliver Stone seems smart and surprisingly lucid (given recent rehab stories). He claims to have kicked coke while writing Scarface in Paris, which brings me to my favorite useless extra in this generally disappointing package: You can change the dialogue track and listen to Tony Montana cursing in French. It's almost worth the price.
JOY TO THE WORLD! Dec. 9 brings Gigli to DVD! Here's a disc that demands your DIY DVD commentary! Also out, Robert Duvall provides his own chat track for Assassination Tango; teen icon Mandy Moore stars in How to Deal and shlumpy teen actor Shia LaBeouf in The Battle of Shaker Heights. Bad Boys II and Pauly Shore's Jury Duty are musts to avoid. Michael Powell's 1937 The Edge of the World and a two-disc set of Dirty Dancing will both be reviewed here soon.