Carlito's Way ★★★★½

Although Carlito's Way in a sense represents the falling motion to Scarface's rising action, it lacks the nervous, overstuffed agitation of Scarface, replacing it with a kind of wistful, elegaic burnout, a paean to uninvolement, to not-doing, or doing other-than. Carlito's Way is more of a piece with The Untouchables, both sweeping historical epics which have the time and space to collect themselves, develop characters, build whole worlds in which to enact tensely clever set-pieces, some of the best of De Palma's career. Carlito's Way and The Untouchables also share a grand, constructed artificiality. They know they are movies, hearkening back to an older-school vibe, when movies had to span the whole of what cinema could do, to offer suspense and romance and melodrama and tragedy within their individual run-times, to give the paying audience their money's worth. In many respects, late 80's/early 90's De Palma is the most assured, the most capable, the most fluidly organic era in that director's entire body of work. Carlito's Way is like neon reflected in wet asphalt constantly being disrupted by traffic.

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