Carlito’s Way (1993)
I can’t help but draw comparisons with The Godfather Part III (1990) that sees Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) try and go straight, leaving behind the world of organized crime. Here in Brian De Palma‘s take on the notion of criminals going straight Carlito’s Way (1993) that sees him working again with Pacino after Scarface (1980). This time however there is a need to avoid the world and people who Carlito ‘Charlie’ Brigante (Pacino) he was surrounded by before his time in jail. Released early on a series of technicalities and the fact that he felt he was a changed man. And for the most part we see a changed man living in a changed New York, full of old and new faces that he encounters.
In debt to his lawyer and close friend David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn) who has slipped into the world of organized crime in the fives years of Carlito’s absence. The fall for someone who was an honest man into a world he has been brought into by the characters he has been unfortunate to represent. He isn’t as street wise as his once assassin friend who is using the rules of the street to go straight, to make enough money for a clean break.
The hard honest work doesn’t come easy, as the manager of a club where debts are owed to Benny Blanco (John Leguizamo) who has more bravado than sense that Carlito sees through, not scared on the young guy.
Whilst romantically he is trying to prove he is a changed man to Gail (Penelope Ann Miller) a dancer who’s drive to fulfil her dream leads to more disappointment that she wants. We don’t always get what we are after, having to deal with the cards we are dealt in life, seeing what we can play.
The intermittent narration is subdued acting as an inner voice that guides us through the film, giving the audience Carlito’s inner thoughts as he tries to go straight, successfully for a time not getting involved in any crimes. Until his poor excuse for a friend David Kleinfeld asks for his help that sees him sink to a new and dangerous low that costs him and later Carlito his life. There is a sense of hope as the final chase ensues, returning De Palma to Grand Central Station since The Untouchables (1987), which is used in innovative ways.
We are shown the ending of the film at the beginning, we know what is more than likely going to happen, a slow and painful ending to a testing few months on the outside trying to go straight, in a few traumatic moments. It’s how we get there, what could have been differently, could anything be done differently at all, who knows? As a revision of the final instalment of the Godfather trilogy it more successfully explores how hard it is. Where as in the not so successful and unnecessary final part, which shows signs off hope, but relying too much on the past two instalments, repeating itself. Both Corleone and Carlito have to struggle with people from their pasts who wont let go. But needs them to help set them free to live a straight life.