To Paradise

As the drug war broke out through the ‘80s, cinema followed – often violent, crude, and exploitative. Come the ‘90s and Carlito’s Way, the genre toned down. Pacino himself went from a bloodthirsty, power mad psychopath in Scarface to a reserved, thinking criminal in Carlito’s Way.

Brian De Palma directs a drama resurrecting the classic Hollywood crime story. Inner monologues, rain-drenched streets at night, and hazy romances recalls the Bogart era. Much of the time, Carlito’s Way is overly romanticized as if to counter-act the hyper-violence from decades before. In a sense, it’s more plausible, and through Pacino a more direct, character-centric offering. Oddly though, Carlito’s Way appears wholly artificial and dream like.

Carlito’s Way wishes for more nuanced criminality on screen

Droopy narration sounds all-too-precise and over written. It’s a move to sound intelligent (or mature) versus the more mainstream gunplay and coke-snorting. Carlito’s Way has those too, but in lower quantities; action holds back until the tense finale, a sweeping paranoia spectacle and the film’s tension-driven high point.

Prior, Carlito’s Way is ponderous, overly showy in its twisting camerawork and a schmaltzy romance that plays to social decay. Both Pacino and girlfriend Penelope Ann Miller find themselves in the same arc, trying to do right, but being sucked into an underground that for them, is inescapable. There’s enough normalcy to the pair to feel empathy, even as Pacino wastes his success. It’s suggestively crude in laying out the American dream, envisioning it as unachievable without entering a seedy, crime-stricken realm.

There’s more showmanship than actual thematic material though. Often set in clubs, the music blares ‘70s hits. Lights flicker and flash. Neons glow. Carlito’s Way’s visual and auditory elements overwhelm the screen. Plus, the camera is often so mobile, Carlito’s Way does everything to maintain attention on itself, and instead, all too rarely lets a scene live.

Often in front of that lens is Pacino who dominates the film in a muddled gray area. His enterprise lacks legitimacy, but those around him, those who grew up in an ever more brutal society, immediately seek retaliation. Pacino only shoots in defense. During an opening courtroom speech, he speaks on being reformed. He won’t kill, and doesn’t, even when he finds a wire on somebody. In mimicking the iconic noir period, Carlito’s Way wishes for more nuanced criminality on screen. That idealism and headiness too often feels manufactured though.

Video

A fresh scan brings Carlito’s Way into the modern era with impeccable sharpness. Resolution sparkles, drawing out texture for days. It’s consistent too, only softening when the cinematography demands so. Whether in close or at a distance, this master shines.

Universal’s encoding chokes a little, if irregularly. The slightest chroma noise appears in spots, the only sign this is digital material and not raw film stock. Grain otherwise looks pure and natural. Whatever dirt, dust, or damage remains is undetectable; it’s a spotless print.

The beneficial color saturation brightens Carlito’s Way, and more importantly, doesn’t betray the source. Flesh tones look organic and the primaries are controlled. At no point does the presentation look graded by digital tools – it’s a respectful, accurate palette. Add in a push to the contrast that adds stellar highlights to exterior scenes and dense shadows for a perfect blend. Dimensionality brings a 3D-esque pop.

Audio

DTS:X adds a spark to the soundstage as needed. Most of Carlito’s Way sticks to the fronts (or center even), using the surrounds to prop up ambient effects. Music in clubs and bars swells into the rears, creating a smooth, audible veil of sound. City sequences pan cars side to side, or front to back. During the train station chase, the PA system fills in the height channels, at least an acknowledgement they’re active.

Limited range doesn’t give much life to the low-end. Not even the music generates much lift to the subwoofer. It’s dull overall, and needs some weight – badly.

Extras

Sharing extras on both discs, bonuses open with eight minutes of deleted scenes. An older making of lasts 34-minutes, and for five-minutes, Brian De Palma speaks on his work. An EPK and trailer mark the cut off point.

Carlito's Way
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

Classier than most drug/crime dramas, Carlito’s Way brings a vintage feel to a genre that turned toward merciless violence, but that doesn’t mean it works either.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 43 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: