Scarface: When the Protagonist is an Antagonist

Brian De Palma’s Scarface (1983) has been quoted throughout the decades since its release. Even those that haven’t seen the film know the iconic phrase, “Say hello to my little friend!” (Including myself). I just viewed Scarface for the first time the other day, and I was a bit confused by the so called “protagonist”.

The film is obviously a morality tale, meant to warn the audience of the dangers and corruption of the criminal world. However, in most films I have viewed, the main character has some kind of redeeming quality about them. From my experience, the first second I meet Tony Montana is dislike him. And the rest of the movie follows suit.

Many people argue that because he refuses to bomb the car with the kids playing in it, he isn’t all that bad. In my opinion, that is not redeeming enough. He controls and manipulates women to get what he wants, commits terrible murders, and still he wants more. There is no redeeming quality to Tony Montana.

There is another claimed redeeming quality that I simply don’t agree with: his love for his sister. The entire film he is completely controlling of her life and her wishes. He is the reason for her downfall. He viciously kills the man she loves right in front of her. Montana’s relationship with his sister isn’t about love, it’s about power.

I think that’s why it was so hard for me to get through the film. The entire time, rather than rooting for the supposed “anti-hero”, I’m rooting against him. In classic noir crime films, such as Double Indemnity, the viewer knows in the end the anti-hero will get what’s coming, but somehow also wants them to keep getting away with it. That is not the case in Scarface.

In no way to I sympathize with Tony Montana. Maybe other’s viewing experience is different, and I understand that. But the entire film I was rooting for the main character to die.

He wanted what was coming to him…and he got it.

-B

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