Immigration from Latin America to the United States has been a disaster for our Hemisphere.
It is true that some immigrants are criminals. But that’s only a tiny part of the problem.
The vast majority of immigrants are not criminals at all, of course. In fact, they are the best and bravest people in Latin America. That’s the real problem with endless immigration. Guatemala, Mexico, and Cuba have lost generations of their brightest and most ambitious young people to the United States. And those countries are suffering for it.
And how about the unfortunate immigrants themselves? They are likely to find that the United States is indeed a land of opportunity. And so they work. And work. And work. They are in a country where they don’t quite speak the language and don’t quite belong so they focus on work and money even more than Americans do. They end up with more material possessions but not necessarily more happiness.
Young Oliver Stone understood this. He explores all three of these immigration problems in one extraordinary character. Tony Montana is the greatest Latin American immigrant in cinema history. And “Scarface” is an underrated classic.
“Scarface” is three hours long. But I wish it were six hours long because I love spending time with Tony Montana.
When we meet Tony (Al Pacino), he is a fearless, ruthless Cuban criminal who just arrived in Miami. His ego is as huge as his ambition.
It is 1981, so the quickest path to riches is cocaine distribution. Before long, Tony is working for a mid-level coke distributor named Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia). But Tony Montana wants to take Frank’s place. And take his beautiful girlfriend Elvira (Michelle Pfeiffer).
I really like what screenwriter Oliver Stone did with Michelle Pfeiffer’s character. Normally in a movie like this, Elvira and Tony would start off happy and be destroyed by drugs and distrust. In “Scarface,” Elvira has no arc; she starts off miserable and stays equally miserable throughout. It is an important lesson for everyone looking for a soulmate: if you start going out with an unhappy druggie, it is likely that she will remain an unhappy druggie until you break up.
But “Scarface” is beloved by middle aged guys because of Tony Montana. Al Pacino is a great actor and a great over-actor. Tony is the perfect character for him.
Tony makes over-the-top philosophical speeches about power, ambition, and money – like a working-class Gordon Gekko. But Tony is also a complex human being, with vulnerabilities and moral lines that he refuses to cross.
I love everything about this movie: the humor, the violence, the synthesizer-driven soundtrack. To me, “Scarface” is the best crime picture that wasn’t directed by Scorsese.
And, above all, “Scarface” takes an unflinching and insightful look at the problems of immigration. Would the Western Hemisphere have been better off if Tony Montana had stayed in Cuba? Probably. Would Tony have been better off if he had never come to Miami? Definitely.