This is the American story in red and blue.
When the white drops out of the patriotic rags-to-riches myth of the American dream, you end up with the timeless tale of a Latino criminal who makes his way in the world through rivers of red blood and blue language.
That's the spine of Brian De Palma's crime-classic Scarface, and the apparent interest around reviving the legend in a new video game, Scarface: The World Is Yours.
Cinema buffs everywhere flinched when a videogame earlier this year reduced The Godfather to a dull routine of extortion and Tommy-gun shakedowns. And, all vices considered, Scarface seems like a better fit for the interactive world. The staples of action games include broadly drawn characters and endless gunplay. As a film, Scarface provides an obvious template.
In the movie, Al Pacino's Tony Montana sketched the perfect postmodern, antihero the self-made man as macho psychopath with a loyal heart of gold. The story satirized the implicit brutality and greed of getting ahead in America while making a case for manly confidence and integrity. And since no one can get away with drug use in a 1980s movie, Montana's reign ended with a shotgun blast to the back.
Unfortunately, all this irony and intricate theming unwinds when you decide to rewrite the movies ending and give Tony a second chance to rule the world.
The game lurches forward with Tony blasting away with a machine gun, and it never seems to run out of reasons for him to go around and shoot people.This formula has worked well in the past. "The Grand Theft Auto" game series turned the urban landscape into a sandbox of crime. The idea that you could go anywhere and do (almost) anything meshed the joys of freedom with the wild abandon of living outside the laws of society.
So, too, for the fictional Tony Montana. While the film's nominally a tale of avarice and the violence of the drug culture, later generations have grown attached to its subtle cheer for a criminal Horatio Alger, a fellow who beats the odds as an ethnic immigrant and rises on his own talent and character.
But where Scarface the movie and "Grand Theft Auto" the game manage to hybridize bloody criminal activity with a middle-American work ethic, Scarface the videogame just works with empty outlines.
The driving around and shooting provide some fun. After all, according to the games story, all youre doing is taking out a little old-fashioned revenge on the gangsters who tried to kill you. And graphically, the game's Miami is plenty fun to explore.
Still, a couple hundred f-bombs and a thousand shell casings later, you realize that Tony Montana didnt learn his lesson in his coke-filled frenzy on film. And he doesnt seem have grown much as a human being in this interactive treadmill of death.
Whos It For: If you wished that Al Pacino's Tony Montana had survived the bloodbath at the end of the film Scarface, heres your chance to see what happens when a crime lord gets a second chance. History repeats.
If You Like This, Try That: Before Scarface inspired its own game, it was a touchstone for the developers of "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City". This games proto-Miami features all the guns and glory of the film along with a cynical sense of humor that seems appropriate for a game about being the best criminal you can be.
Best Part: Although Pacino didnt help make this game, the guy they hired to mimic his Tony Montana characterization does a spot-on job, right down to his pronunciation of the word "cock-a-roch".