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Carlito's Way is a tale of a former hood trying to escape his former life. Al Pacino is Carlito Brigante, a high-level Puerto Rican drug dealer sprung from a three-decade jail sentence after only five... read more read more... years, thanks to a technicality and his sleazy, cocaine-addled lawyer, Dave Kleinfeld (Sean Penn). Carlito renounces his previous ways and takes a job as the manager of a club that Kleinfeld has invested in, planning to save enough money so that he can eventually move to the Caribbean. But no sooner is Carlito back on the streets of New York than his old life claws at him in the form of both old partners (Luis Guzman) and vicious up-and-comers (John Leguizamo). Nevertheless, Carlito stays clean and even restarts his relationship with a dancer named Gail (Penelope Ann Miller), until he is finally led astray by Kleinfeld, who manipulates Carlito into participating in the murder of a Mafia don from whom Kleinfeld has stolen a million dollars. At that point, the race is on to see whether Carlito and Gail can escape his world for good. The film is based on two novels about Carlito written by New York State judge Edwin Torres. ~ Don Kaye, Rovi

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91% liked it

123,284 ratings


79% liked it

43 critics

R, 2 hr. 25 min.

Directed by: Brian DePalma

Release Date: January 1, 1993

Keywords: gangster, crime

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DVD Release Date: May 26, 1998

Stats: 5,485 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (5,485)

  • March 18, 2014
    A decade after they lit the place up with Scarface, Brian De Palma and Al Pacino reteam for another compelling crime drama involving the drug trade- a gripping film that shows the consequences of a life of crime from a much more real and gritty perspective point of view than Scar... read moreface. Not that Scarface is a bad movie, it's a great film, but this one is just more human.

    Carlito "Charlie" Brigante has just been released from prison after serving 5 years of a 30 year sentence thanks to the work of his scheming and smarmy lawyer Dave Kleinfeld. Now that he's out, Carlito decides to go the straight and narrow, and cut ties with his old life. He's got big dreams ahead of him, and, noble as they may be, he finds it hard to completely let go of the past.

    As I said above, it's a very human film, and it goes for the heart as much as it does for the throat. Yeah, the film has shades of familiarity (what film doesn't?) but it's very well played. De Palma tones down some of the manic camera work, and there's no split screen, but we do get some good long takes and tracking shots, and that typical feeling of being inside the event of the film that he's known for doing. It's a gorgeous picture, and you truly get immersed in Carlito's world.

    It's set in the 70s (I believe, as the film doesn't make it too obvious, but it feels like that's what they're trying for), and the details, though subtle, are nice. This could have been more overt, but they went for restraint, and that makes the picture a lot stronger I think.

    It's also got some terrific performances. Pacino once again stuns as Carlito, and I dig the beard he brings with his accent. Sean Penn is tremendous as Kleinfeld, and he's the kind of coked-out worm you love to hate. Luis Guzman and John Leguizamo provide some decent supporting performances, and Penelope Ann Miller is fine as Carlito's old/rekindled flame Gale, but the real treat acting wise is the brief cameo from a young and barely recognizable Viggo Mortensen as an old wheelchair-bound associate of Carlito's. It's a truly remarkable appearance.

    All in all, this is a wonderful film. It's long, but it doesn't feel like a chore. You get to know the characters and world, and you really try to root for them and hope that a more mature perspective on the world will yield better results. Definitely give this one a shot. Truly one of De Palma's finest.
  • March 5, 2014
    One of the best crime dramas of the 90's.

    Excellent Gangster Film! Carlito's Way (1993), is a brilliant cinematic work. Pacino's performance as Carlito Berganzi displays the duplicity and subsequent torment between his reformed spirit, and the endless seduction of the street, em... read morebodied more specifically as his reputation,legacy,those who know him, of him, and those whom he allows in his innermost circle. Sean Penn is phenomenal as the lawyer representing Carlito, his metamorphosis into character is testament to his depth of talent. Penelope Ann Miller, as the long-suffering love of Carlito's life is dramatically and visually enchanting. The casting is perfect. The supporting cast superb, perfectly augmenting the film. The script is alive with literary devices, the story line(s), characters, dialogue, themes, sub-texts,etc., make this an almost endlessly watchable film. This is by far one of Pacino's best movies in his career and he should've definitely at least been nominated for an Oscar. Definitely worth to be in your collection if you're a fan of crime dramas or gangster flicks.

    A Puerto Rican ex-con pledges to stay away from his former drug dealing ways but finds himself being dragged back by his past connections and the naive machinations of his lawyer and best friend. Hoping to raise enough money to get away from New York, Carlito Brigante takes on the job of running a nightclub, renews an affair with a dancer but old associates and old instincts suck him back into a world of violence and mistrust.
  • January 29, 2012
    Carlito: I don't invite this shit, it just comes to me. I run, it runs after me. Gotta be somewhere to hide. 

    "He wanted out. He'd do anything to get there."

    On one hand I love Carlito's Way for the performances from Pacino and Penn, for De Palma's signature touch of violence, ... read moreand for how the story progresses on the back of its characters. Still, I can't help feeling like this isn't as good as it should be. It's good, but far from being an amazing film. With the talent in front of and behind the camera, I just always expect more. But still as it is, it is still a pretty fantastic piece of the Crime Drama genre. It doesn't reach the point of De Palma and Pacino's Scarface, but it is better than 90% of the other movies that try to do a story like this.

    Carlito has just been released from prison where he was serving a thirty year sentence. Instead, he is released after just five because his lawyer, Kleinfeld was able to get him off on a technicality. Carlito expresses right from the out set that he wants to be done with the gangster scene. All he wants to do is make some money so that he can move down to the Bahama's with his girlfriend Gail. Things don't go that perfectly though as his friends are constantly bringing him back into the gangster scene. The film is very character driven, but as the plot progresses, it leads to an extremely suspenseful final twenty minutes. De Palma just knows how to shoot amazing scenes on stairs in train stations. The one here resembles the one in The Untouchables to a high degree. 

    The movie is weakest when the narration is going on. The dialogue for it doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the movie. It just feels very awkward and even silly. Whenever I hear the voice over come on, I just wish that it wasn't in the film, or at least cut down a little.

    Carlito's Way does have some amazing scenes as you would expect from De Palma. I already mentioned the scene in the train station. But the best scene in the movie is the first time we see Carlito pulled down into crime. He goes on a drug pickup with his cousin. The pickup doesn't go very well and a lot of shooting ensues. It all is capped off by one of the coolest little speeches ever.

    While this isn't a masterpiece, it is still a worthwhile film for sure. De Palma has made better movies than this, but it still shows a lot of what makes him great. It is hard to watch this and not compare it to Scarface, but you should probably try your hardest not to.

    Carlito: I'm reloaded! Okay? Come on in here, you motherfuckers! Come on, I'm waitin' for ya! What, you ain't comin' in? Okay, I'm comin' out! Oh, you up against me now, motherfuckers! I'm gonna blow your fuckin' brains out! You think you're big time? You gonna fuckin' die big time! You ready? HERE COMES THE PAIN! 
  • July 3, 2011
    Luiz Guil-whatever-his-name-is-Pugface-lookin samoan... its like everything Pacino says he just repeats it: "yo Benny you gots ta pay me!!!" "yeah,Benny u gots ta pay him!"
  • May 26, 2011
    DePalma delivers a work w/o the overexaggerated Hitchcockian tricks of yore and the result is taut, edge-of-your-seat film-making. Pacino is restrained, powerful, while Penn's arc into paranoid coke frenzy plays vividly true. A worthy addition in anyone's gangster film collection.
  • February 20, 2011
    Carlitos Way is yet another top notch Al Pacino gangster film in which we see legendary 'Carlito Brigante' try to cut his ties with the underworld and make it on his own, straight.

    The storyline is solid and well paced, the characters are well developed and with Al Pacino on boa... read morerd its hard to go wrong. Sean Penn as the bent lawyer Kleinfeld is excellent and its really his actions that make you sit up and get involved with this film.

    Similar to the Godfather Part III, Carlito thinks he's finally free and can go follow his dream of renting cars to tourists in some far away paradise. However, just like Michael Corleone, just when he thinks hes out, they pull him right back!

    The lengthy cat and mouse end sequence is attention grabbing and keeps you guessing until the very end. Yes this is Al Pacino. Yes this is another gangster film. And Yes, we are all still watching and for good reason!

    "Favor gonna kill you faster than a bullet. "
  • February 15, 2011
    Pretty decent gangster movie. Viggo Mortensen is in a wheelchair and complains about pooping his pants everyday. You can't pass up cinematic gold like that. Pacino does an excellent job as always playing the same character.
  • January 9, 2011
    Not as good as Scarface.. but, really, is any drug&gun movie as good as that one?!
    I really wanted Carlito to get out and have an honest life, the ending could have been different. But it was really good and thrilling.. well done mob/thug/crime drama, with a great cast.
  • November 21, 2010
    Great movie..and I can see why it is underrated; possibly due to obvious comparisons to Scarface (Brian De Palma, Martin Bregman, Al Pacino team), which was much more brutal in its approach.

    Al Pacino stars as Carlito Brigante, an ex-gangster, who with the help of his lawyer a... read morend friend David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn) beats his 30 years prison sentence and gets out in 5 years. Carlito has made up his mind to go clean and never to go in the coke business he used to be involved in. He plans to make enough money in order to start a car rental business. In order to do so, he partners up with a man called Saso and starts running his local disco.

    Things seem to be in place, but certain elements seem to be working against him and his plans. Carlito soon discovers that once you are in, you are in, and it is one hell of a task to get out of it!

    The plot somewhat reminded me of "The Godfather Part III".
    It could almost also qualify as a sequel to "Scarface", had Montana been alive and decided to go clean!

    Only Al Pacino as Carlito, awesome as he is, is still much softer compared to the sledgehammer Tony Montana.
    And then there is some romance mixed in with the story of a gangster trying to reform himself. Carlito looks up his old girlfriend Gail (Penelope Ann Miller) who now works as a dancer in a nightclub and attempts to win her back.

    I didn't like the romantic scenes myself...thought they interrupted the flow of the story...hence I gave it a 9 instead of a 10! There is also some clichéd dialogue. I happen to be a big Pacino fan and so I am being a little bit (though not entirely) biased and am sidelining all these things. If you excuse these small potatoes, this one is a great flick from start to finish, very entertaining, well-directed by Brian De Palma and with some fantastic performances from the supporting cast.

    Sean Penn is superb as the coke snorting lawyer David Kleinfeld. This is definitely one of his best, yet less known performances.

    John Leguizamo makes a very memorable appearance as Benny Blanco from the Bronx, a wannabe gangster who initially thinks very highly of Carlito.

    Luis Guzman does pretty well as Pachanga who assists Carlito in running the club.

    Special mention, also, of Viggo Mortensen who comes in for a short role, but plays the part wonderfully.

    As for Al Pacino in lead role, he makes sure he steals the show, as usual. Brilliant!
  • November 11, 2010
    A Puerto Rican drug dealer is released from prison with the full intention of going straight, but circumstances make it increasingly difficult. Carlito's Way feels like the other side of the coin to De Palma's earlier collaboration with Pacino, Scarface. In this film the protagon... read moreist is an essentially good man doing his best to stay out of trouble, something made impossible by crooked, jewfro-ed best friend Sean Penn. As is always the case with De Palma, subtlety is thrown straight out of the window and his comic strip direction means it's hardly the height of sophistication. It is however always entertaining thanks to enjoyable turns from the double act of Pacino and Penn and the lurid environment of 70s New York makes a colourful backdrop to the slapstick violence. On the downside, Penelope Ann Miller is kind of a plank and De Palma should realise that giving away the ending at the beginning of the film only works when there are clever twists and turns during the journey. Otherwise all you're doing is, well, giving away the ending. Not exactly The Godfather, but it's a lot better than the over-rated Scarface.

Critic Reviews

June 24, 2006
Time Out

Pacino looks every inch a movie star, and De Palma provides a timely reminder of just how impoverished the Hollywood lexicon has become since the glory days of the '70s. Full Review

Janet Maslin
May 20, 2003
Janet Maslin, New York Times

"Carlito's Way" is best watched as lively, colorful posturing and as a fine demonstration of this director's bravura visual style. Full Review

Roger Ebert
January 1, 2000
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"Carlito's Way," like "Scarface," is first and last a character study, a portrait of a man who wants to be better than he is. Full Review

Hal Hinson
January 1, 2000
Hal Hinson, Washington Post

About halfway through, the overwhelming fact that the movie is a complete nothing becomes too much to ignore. Full Review

Desson Thomson
January 1, 2000
Desson Thomson, Washington Post

Pacino has his moments but for the most part he's surprisingly underwhelming. He's a great actor but even I can do a better Puerto Rican accent. Full Review

January 1, 1993
Entertainment Weekly

A competent and solidly unsurprising urban-underworld thriller: De Palma's imitation of a middle-drawer Sidney Lumet movie. Full Review

Nick Rogers
December 21, 2013
Nick Rogers,

Although still distinctly sleek a la de Palma, it's the rare instance in which romantic optimism & warm, careful character observation trump his penchant for coolly detached cynicism. It's not nihilis... Full Review

Kevin Carr
July 30, 2012
Kevin Carr, 7M Pictures

Perhaps the last great DePalma film, using his trademarks well but not overusing them. Full Review

Matthew Pejkovic
July 6, 2010
Matthew Pejkovic, Matt's Movie Reviews

Beautifully shot and extremely well acted, Carlito's Way is not only a great crime movie but is also a tragic story of redemption, as one man tries to escape the ghost's of his past and start again. Full Review

Jeffrey M. Anderson
September 23, 2006
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid

A lengthy cat-and-mouse chase scene at the film's climax practically surpasses Hitchcock and even gives Scorsese's GoodFellas a run for its money. Full Review

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    • Carlito Brigante: That's Sasso... Used to be Ron.
    • Carlito Brigante: Okay, I reloaded!
    • David Kleinfeld: Loyalty to your friends is going to get you killed one day.
    • David Kleinfeld: Fuck you and your self-righteous code of the goddamn streets. Did it pull you out of a 30 year stint in only 5 years? No, it didn't, I did. Did it get you acquitted 4 fucking times? No, it didn't, I did, so fuck you, fuck the streets, your whole goddamn world is this big, and there's only one rule, you save your own ass.
    • Gail: [crying] That's the last time I wipe up your blood!
    • Carlito Brigante: You think you're big time? You gonna fuckin' die big time.

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Carlito's Way Trivia

  • Tagline: "Once youre in,there's no way out"  Answer »
  • Sean Penn and Al Pacino play best friends in which film?  Answer »
  • Who directed "Phantom of Paradise", "Dressed to Kill", "The Untouchables", "The Black Dahlia", "Casualties of War", "Carlito's Way" and "Mission: Impossible"?  Answer »
  • Who directed Carlito's Way ?  Answer »

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