Archives for posts with tag: Al Pacino

You know all those movies where the bad guy looks at the good guy and says, “we’re not so different, you and I?” That concept is the poignant, underlying theme of “Donnie Brasco” (1997). Johnny Depp is the young, family man, undercover FBI agent and Al Pacino is the world-weary mob wiseguy, but they’re not so different. They’re both mid-level grinders, bound together, trying to do their best while their bosses take advantage of them. The allure of being someone he’s not has Depp turning away from his own life of quiet desperation, but is the alternative that different? Fuggedaboutit.

I first watched “Scarface” in the winter of 1984 at a theater in Hialeah, Fla. It was very controversial at the time (the film, not the theater). For the f-bombs (Cher saw it with young daughter Chastity and counted 77 of them). For the way it depicted South Florida as a drug-addled crime haven (tourism officials were not amused). But the organized crime story with a Cuban twist plays out like a violent Shakespearean tragedy that will appeal equally to Shakespeare lovers and violence lovers. How violent? Just wait for Al Pacino to shout, “Say hello to my little friend!”

As you watch “City Hall” (1996), there’s a feeling this plane is on autopilot. Al Pacino is the mayor of New York. He plays it like pretty much every speechifying New York Guy character he’s ever played. John Cusack is deputy mayor. His Louisiana accent and backwoods backstory are more a distraction than a distinction. (Former South Carolina Sen. Ernest Hollings has a cameo, BTW.) The tired plot’s a retelling of the young idealist learning the hard way that political morality is painted in shades of gray, not black and white. It’s not bad, it just doesn’t have any soul.