is a Brian De Palma
film in which Al Pacino
plays a Puerto Rican gangster hoping to reconcile and start a new life after his five year stint in jail. It's a far cry from being another Scarface
, though Carlito's Way may be seen as its spiritual successor.
The two films are nearly inversions of each other; where Tony Montana rises from a nobody to a prominent drug lord
, Carlito Brigante attempts to reform
after a life of notoriety. Both films however, go their way to show that gangster life is not all it's cracked up to be.
, Carlito Brigante is released from prison
with help from his lawyer and friend David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn
), after discovering that the prosecutor's evidence has been gathered through questionable means. From this second chance at life, Carlito decides to reform himself for good
, vowing to stay legitimate and out of crime's way. He manages to buy a nightclub and rekindle his relationship with Gail
(Penelope Anne Miller
), a beautiful dancer.
Unfortunately, Carlito's criminal past catches up with him - his former associates, along with an up and coming gangster Benny Blanco from the Bronx
, attempt to cajole him back into the gangster life. Further complicating things, the FBI wishes to see Carlito Brigante put back in jail. But the biggest obstacle is David Kleinfeld's dilemma with a mafioso boss 'Tony T.' who is locked up inside Sing Sing
; Tony T. wants Kleinfield to spring him out, and Kleinfeld isn't sure of what other plans
Tony T. has in mind for him afterwards..
The film was released to mixed reviews. Some professional critics praised the film and its "hauntingly beautiful" soundtrack. Others dismissed it as a retread of Scarface
and The Untouchables
. It proved a modest box office hit, earning about 64 million dollars in the worldwide market. About 37 million of these dollars came from the United States market, where the film was the 40th most successful of its year. The film went on to become a major hit of the video market. It gained the status of "cult film" and positive reviews by a younger generation of critics. It is currently listed among the best films of the 1990s.
The film was an adaptation of two novels by Edwin Torres: "Carlito's Way" (1975) and its sequel "After Hours" (1979). It left out several events of the first novel. Said events were eventually filmed for a prequel. "Carlito's Way: Rise To Power" was released straight to video in 2005. It covers the criminal activities of Carlito in the 1960s. The prequel was directed by Michael Bregman. The titular character was played by Jay Hernandez. The film remains relatively obscure, failing to gain much attention.
This film has examples of:
- Added Alliterative Appeal: Benny Blanco from the Bronx.
- Asshole Victim: Carlito decides to let his lawyer, Kleinfeld, get killed by Vinnie T. for killing his father. Then there's also Pachanga, who was killed after betraying Carltio at the end.
- Badass Beard
- Badass Longcoat: Carlito's black leather coat.
- Big Applesauce
- Bittersweet Ending: Though Carlito dies in the end, Gail makes it out to the Bahamas with their unborn child.
- Bottomless Magazines: Averted. After firing a Colt .45 seven times, Carlito runs out of ammo and has to pretend to reload to scare some thugs.
- Chekhov's Gun: Kleinfeld's .38 Snub nose
- Chekhov's Gunman: Literally.
"Remember me? Benny Blanco from the Bronx?" * BLAM BLAM BLAM*
- Chronic Villainy: Subverted. Carlito is unwittingly involved in several crimes, but he never directly perpetrates any himself. Unfortunately, the FBI and others suspect him of this.
- Cluster F-Bomb
- Damn It Feels Good to Be a Gangster: Deconstructed
- Diabolus ex Machina: See Hope Spot and Face Heel Turn.
- The Don: Tony T. wants Kleinfeld to help him out.
- Dutch Angle: Used pragmatically - whenever the camera tilts, it's leveling two or three faces which are at different heights. As it happens, this positioning occurs in especially tense moments.
- Face Heel Turn/Big Bad Friend: Kleinfeld has already sold out Carlito to the FBI with trying to frame him of cocaine dealing, even having offered to testify against him. Though interestingly, the FBI believe Carlito's attempt to go straight is genuine, and try to use him to instead bust Kleinfeld.
- Carlito's best buddy Pachanga, in the very end.
- Fatal Flaw: Either Carlito's past, his code of loyalty even to those who put him back In Harm's Way, or his determination to stay straight.
- Also Kleinfeld's stemming inferiority complex, which leads to putting Carlito into deep trouble after he botches the Sing Sing breakout.
- Foil: Contrast Carlito's determination to stay straight with Kleinfeld's efforts to dig himself into a hole of his own corruption and stupidity.
- Foregone Conclusion: See How We Got Here.
- Foreshadowing: Pachanga is mentioned early on to be interested in selling Carlito out.
- Gang Bangers: Pachanga, Guajiro, and others
- The Hero Dies: Carlito was killed before he could escape on the train with Gail.
- Hidden Wire: Lalín, one of Carlito's past friends comes by for a visit, to have Carlito find Lalín hooked up to a listening bug courtesy of Norwalk. Lalín claims he turned it off beforehand.
- Honor Before Reason: Carlito in several instances, but it leads him into trouble. See Tragic Mistake.
- Hope Spot: Carlito gets away from the Italian mobsters chasing him and it looks like he's going to make it to the train, but then Benny Blanco from the Bronx does Carlito in from petty revenge...
- How We Got Here: The movie starts with Carlito on the gurney.
- I Just Want to Be Badass: Gaujiro, Carlito's wannabe Gang Banger cousin, looks up to him but gets killed for his efforts during a drug deal.
You said they were your friends, but there ain't no friends in this shit business''.
- It's All About Me: David Kleinfeld.
- Karma Houdini: Benny Blanco from the Bronx not only escapes his karma, but defies Carlito's as well.
- Karmic Death: Kleinfeld and Pachanga at the end.
- Kick the Dog: After all the trouble Carlito went through to help him, Kleinfeld has already betrayed him to the FBI anyway.
- The Mafia: Tony T. and his family.
- The Millstone: Kleinfeld gets Carlito out of jail. After that, he only gets in the way of Carlito's goal to clean up his act.
- The Mole: Carlito's friend Lalín is wearing a wire as part of the FBI's attempt to bust Carlito, but he's found out quickly. Also Kleinfeld and Pachanga.
- Narrator: Carlito narrates throughout the movie, stream-of-consciousness.
- No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Carlito chooses to spare Benny Blanco's life. Benny kills him in return.
- Noodle Incident: Characters would often talk about incidents and people from the past that aren't in the movie. Example:
Oh, Carlito! I heard of you, man. You used to run smack with Rolando.
- Not-So-Harmless Villain: Benny Blanco at the end.
- Off on a Technicality: Carlito got out of jail because of a prosecutor's mistake.
- Pay Evil unto Evil: Carlito lets his lawyer, Kleinfeld, have what is coming to him. See Pillow Pistol below.
- Pillow Pistol: Kleinfeld keeps one while he is recovering in the hospital. Carlito tells him to keep it in plain sight and unloads it. Cue Oh Crap from Kleinfeld before he is shot by Vinnie T..
- Pretender Diss: Carlito does not like gangster wannabes. At all.
"Maybe I don't give a shit! Maybe I don't remember the last time I blew my nose either.. Who the fuck are you? I should remember you? What, you think you like me? You ain't like me motherfucker, you a punk. I've been with made people, connected people. Who've you been with? Chain snatching, jive-ass, maricón motherfuckers. Why don't you get out of here and go snatch a purse."
- P.O.V. Cam: Carlito on the gurney.
- Really Gets Around: Steph.
- Reformed Criminal: Carlito Brigante, or so it seems.
- Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Vinnie T., after his father Tony T. is killed in the botched Sing Sing breakout. Unfortunately, Carlito gets mixed up in it.
- Shadow Archetype: Benny Blanco is an unpleasant reminder of how nasty Carlito used to be.
- Someone to Remember Him By: Carlito himself finds out that Gail had an unborn child before dying.
- Too Dumb to Live: Kleinfeld makes many mistakes in his constant paranoia and feelings of inferiority, leading to the majority of the trouble for Carlito after the breakout and his own Karmic Death in the end.
- Tragedy: Carlito's Way is a tragedy of character in the backdrop of high-risk, stark gangster life.
- A Tragedy of Impulsiveness: Kleinfeld dooms the entire cast by impulsively killing his mob boss client during a jailbreak.
- Tragic Mistake: Carlito probably would have avoided all his troubles with Tony T. had he'd told his friend Kleinfeld to take a hike.
- Carlito's death at the hands of Benny Blanco from the Bronx would have been all avoided had he left Benny Blanco from the Bronx alone in the nightclub.
- or killed him like Pachanga wanted to.
- or gotten rid of Pachanga who everyone knows can't be trusted.
- White Collar Crime: Kleinfeld is implied to participate in some of these.
- You Have Out Lived Your Usefulness: Pachanga to Benny Blanco from the Bronx.
- "Naw, you stay here!" * BLAM*