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Gangster Life Portrayed in the Movie, Scarface

Gangster Life Portrayed in the Movie, Scarface

As an exile from Communist Cuba, ….Montana…wha you say? You say wrong Scarface? Maybe I say you wrong, man. Maybe I say you in wrong place at wrong time chico. Maybe I no even speak to you, maybe I let someone else talk. I got someone you should meet. Say hello to my lil’ frie…. I’m sorry, let me start over.

There is a thin line that exists between the depiction of a villain and a gangster that Hollywood has mastered walking on. While villains and gangsters may do many of the same things in movies, like stealing and killing, they each do them for different reasons. Villains enjoy crime because that is what gets them off; some may feel they are doing society a favor, like Uncle Charlie in Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt, and others are more simply portrayed as naturally evil or mentally ill. But Gangsters are doing what they do for something American society can relate to—to make a living and, ultimately, get to the top.

This “business” aspect of organized crime is what the movie industry has latched on to in the Gangster genre. In Scarface, Tony Camonte is in the business of selling beer to the town watering holes. Of course, he doesn’t so much sell the beer as force it on the bar owners at jacked up prices. And just like any other business, there is competition for dominance in the market. And for this dominance, or rather monopoly, ringleaders do not think twice about taking their competition out – not by buying them out or forcing them into bankruptcy, but by sending a squad out to murder them.

Like most things captured on film for the purpose of being marketed, the richness of gangster life, with sex, money, and power in surplus, is glorified, and thus embraced by the audience. And as a rule, if something works Hollywood repeats it, ala a genre. What Scarface and Little Caesar did was ultimately create a genre assigning powerful qualities to criminals. Such sensationalism started with the newspapers who maybe added a little more color here and there to sell a few more copies, which is portrayed in Scarface’s two newspaper office scenes. Leo Braudy denounces genres as offending “our most common definition of artistic excellence” by simply following a predetermined equation of repetition of character and plot. However, Thomas Schatz argues that many variations of plot can exist within the “arena” that the rules of the genre provide.

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