Set in New York’s disco era Brian De Palma’s gritty story of one remorseful soul’s quest for redemption, based on the books by Edwin Torres, is an antithesis of sorts to 1983’s "Scarface". Unlike Tony Montana’s headlong rush towards damnation, Carlito is struggling upstream all the way; a one-time criminal kingpin trying to put his past to rest. A brilliant supporting cast, including an unrecognizable Sean Penn as his coke-snorting lawyer, keep Pacino’s character slightly off balance as he struggles to redefine “right” from “wrong” while whirling cinematography and a score of old dance hits propel the action forward. Of course it wouldn’t be a De Palma film without a touch of the surreal and clever allusions to Heaven vs Hell are used throughout—the word “Paradise” pops up in various guises and a climactic encounter involves people going up (or down) escalators. Not your usual gangster film.
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