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Brian De Palma
Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo, Ingrid Rogers, Luis Guzmán, James Rebhorn, Joseph Siravo, Viggo Mortensen
Writing Credits:
David Koepp

A Puerto Rican ex-con pledges to stay away from his former drug dealing ways but finds himself being dragged back by his past connections.

Box Office:
Domestic Gross
$36.948 million.

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 145 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 5/18/2010

• “Brian De Palma On Carlito’s Way” Featurette
• Nine Deleted Scenes
• “The Making of Carlito’s Way Documentary


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Carlito's Way [Blu-Ray] (1993)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (July 6, 2016)

Apparently whenever director Brian De Palma and actor Al Pacino work together, they create flicks with lasting appeal that don’t do well during their original release. Such was the case with 1983’s Scarface. It failed to attract a great audience back then but gradually became seen as a gangster classic, a factor helped by the masses of rappers who adored it.

1993’s Carlito’s Way doesn’t enjoy the fame of Scarface, but it’s nonetheless managed to become more popular than its initial lackluster theatrical one would make one believe. The flick pretty much tanked back then, and I don’t recall that it received many positive critical notices. However, it maintained a decent following – at least enough for Universal to bankroll a 2005 direct-to-video prequel.

Way starts with its ending, as it introduces us to Carlito Brigante (Pacino) right after someone shoots and seriously injures him. We then flash back and see events from 1975.

Carlito gets out of jail after five years of a 30-year sentence. This occurs because his slick lawyer David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn) wins an appeal based on a technicality; DA Norwalk (James Rebhorn) used some shady tactics during the original investigation.

A former big-shot criminal, Carlito claims he plans to go straight. He just wants to raise $75,000 so he can move to the Bahamas and invest in a buddy’s car rental agency. No one believes this claim, though, and they constantly try to re-involve Carlito in illicit activities. He resists but finds his past tough to avoid.

Kleinfeld encourages Carlito to become the manager of his buddy Saso’s (Jorge Porcel) nightclub. After Carlito becomes unwittingly involved in a violent incident, he agrees and sees this as a way to raise his $75,000.

This goes fairly well and even allows Carlito to re-encounter his old love, Gail (Penelope Ann Miller). He dumped her when he went to jail to protect himself, as he felt he’d worry too much about her if they stayed a couple. Carlito clearly wants to reignite that relationship, but since he broke her heart, Gail views matters warily.

Carlito’s criminal past continues to haunt him, but an unusual source attempts to get him back into illegal activities. Kleinfeld stole a million bucks from gangster client Tony Taglialucci (Frank Minucci) and the crook’s not happy about this.

To repay the debt, Tony insists that Kleinfeld help break him out of Ryker’s Island. Out of his league, Kleinfeld pesters Carlito to help, an idea the loyal Brigante grudgingly accepts. The rest of the movie follows Carlito’s relationships and attempts to reach his goals.

Since Way was based on novels by Edwin Torres, I know it had no connection to 1990’s much-maligned Godfather Part III. However, it’s easy to see a link since the story of Way feels like it’s a riff on the earlier flick’s most famous line: “Just when I thought that I was out they pull me back in!”

That quote essentially sums up the plot to Way. Although this makes the movie follow a fairly predictable path, I don’t mind since it brings depth unusual for a gangster movie.

Most of these genre efforts go the Scarface route to look after the violent rise to power of those involved. Way takes the opposite road to look at someone who really does want to reform himself but finds it tough to avoid the mistakes of his past.

Carlito does provide an unusually deep character for this kind of film. He still aspires to succeed and seems somewhat resigned to the fact that he’ll likely need to resort to some illegal methods along the way. However, he truly appears to aspire to get out of the scene; it’s not lip service, and his past weighs on him much more than expected.

As the lead role, Pacino is a mixed bag, though usually good. On one hand, he shows too much of the bluster that mars many of his modern performances. This trend is exemplified by his work in Scent of a Woman, a turn notable for his loud “hoo-ah!” exclamations. There’s too much aggressive Scent of a Woman in Pacino’s performance and not enough of the subtlety that he brought out in earlier flicks like The Godfather.

On the other hand, Pacino demonstrates a presence that serves the role well. For all his hamminess, there’s an authority and charisma Pacino emanates that help make Carlito much more believable than I otherwise might expect. When the actor backs off from his bluster, he seems eminently easy to accept in the role, as he really looks the part.

Pacino also depicts Carlito’s weariness well. Again, his non-verbal side works best. He conveys a lot with little looks and gestures. Despite his occasional bluster, Pacino manages to work fairly well in the lead part.

While the plot elements that involve Gail become necessary in the end, they often feel somewhat artificial. For much of the movie, they come across as grafted on, and they don’t mesh well with the rest of the tale. By the end, they add up to a little more, but I still think they act more as plot devices than anything else.

Carlito’s Way doesn’t serve as a great gangster movie, but it’s more than serviceable. It aspires to be something a little different, and despite some misfires, it usually succeeds. It works well as a nice change of pace.

The Disc Grades: Picture B-/ Audio B-/ Bonus C+

Carlito’s Way appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A few problems popped up but not much marred this generally positive transfer.

Overall sharpness seemed good. A few slightly soft shots occurred – and were exacerbated by photographic choices – but the majority of the film stayed fairly crisp and concise. I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and the image lacked edge haloes. I also detected sporadic examples of source flaws. These were limited to a few specks - nothing major defaced the presentation.

With its Seventies setting and an emphasis on nightclubs, Way provided many opportunities for bright tones. The colors were the best aspect of the transfer. They consistently appeared lively and dynamic, and they remained firm throughout the movie.

Blacks also demonstrated deep, tight elements, and shadows were clear and easily visible. The source flaws knocked this one down to a “B-”, but it often looked better than that grade might indicate.

Given the film’s genre and the era in which it was made, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield maintained a surprisingly heavy emphasis on the front spectrum. Even during more action-oriented scenes with gunfire and other lively elements, the surrounds played a minor role. They fleshed out the front material in a modest way and that was it.

At least the forward channels offered pretty good information. They showed nice stereo imaging for the score and created a solid sense of environment through effects. These were appropriately placed and usually meshed well, though a few transitions seemed a bit awkward.

Audio quality was fine, though without great heft. Speech seemed concise and distinctive, and I noticed no signs of edginess. Music appeared reasonably lush and full, although I felt low-end was a little weak. The same thoughts greeted the effects, as they were acceptably accurate but without much bass response. This was a serviceable soundtrack.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the ”Ultimate Edition” DVD from 2005? Audio showed a little more zing, but not a lot – the soundtrack remained unexceptional.

Visuals demonstrated the expected format upgrades. This meant improved definition and superior color reproduction. The BD also lost the edge enhancement from the DVD. While Way could use a remaster, the Blu-ray was still an obvious step up from the DVD.

The Blu-ray duplicates some of the DVD’s extras, and we start with Brian De Palma On Carlito’s Way. This five-minute, 26-second featurette offers the director’s comments on verisimilitude and various actors, visual elements, and movie critics.

De Palma tosses out a few interesting comments but doesn’t tell us much of use in this brief piece. It flies by too quickly and without enough depth to stick.

Nine Deleted Scenes last a total of eight minutes, 15 seconds. That running time doesn’t leave a lot of room for anything terribly memorable, so don’t expect a lot from these clips. They mostly flesh out existing scenes and fail to present anything very compelling.

The disc’s most substantial program, The Making of Carlito’s Way runs 34 minutes, 36 seconds. It includes remarks from De Palma, author Edwin Torres, producer Martin Bregman, screenwriter David Koepp, and editor Bill Pankow.

We learn about the origins of the story and its script development, bringing De Palma on board, Torres’ continued involvement in the project and inspirations for characters, the movie’s structure, working with the actors, dialogue and pacing, difficulties with/aspects of specific scenes, and the film’s reception.

“Making” hits on all the necessary bases to become a useful program. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, and that’s fine with me. It runs through the important aspects of the film’s creation with honesty and reasonable depth, so we get a good feel for the production here. It acts as a solid documentary.

Does the Blu-ray drop anything from the 2005 DVD? Yup – it loses some galleries as well as a trailer and a vintage featurette.

An unusual take on the gangster genre, Carlito’s Way mostly succeeds. It occasionally goes off-track with some weak plot threads, but it mostly keeps us interested and involved. The Blu-ray offers reasonably good picture and audio along with a decent set of extras. Carlito’s Way doesn’t match with the best crime films, but it works pretty well.

To rate this film visit the DVD Review of CARLITO'S WAY

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