Carlito's Way

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Al Pacino - Carlito's Way.jpg

Carlito's Way 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.

In 1975, Carlito Brigante is released from prison with help from his lawyer and friend David Kleinfield, 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 Kleinfield's dilemma with a mafioso boss 'Tony T.' who is locked up inside Sing Sing; Tony T. wants Kleinfield to spring him out, and Kleinfield 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.

Tropes used in Carlito's Way include:

"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.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Deconstructed
  • Diabolus Ex Machina: See Hope Spot and Face Heel Turn.
  • The Don: Tony T. wants Kleinfield 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: Kleinfield 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 Kleinfield'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 Kleinfield'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
  • 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 gangbanger 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 Kleinfield.
  • Karma Houdini: Benny Blanco from the Bronx not only escapes his karma but defies Carlito's as well.
  • Karmic Death: Kleinfield and Pachanga
  • Kick the Dog: After all the trouble Carlito went through to help him, Kleinfield 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 Kleinfield 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.


"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."

  • POV Cam: Carlito on the gurney.
  • Reformed Criminal: Carlito Brigante, or so it seems.
  • Retirony
  • 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.
  • Someone to Remember Him By
  • Too Dumb to Live: Kleinfield 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 Kleinfield 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: Kleinfield is implied to participate in some of these.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Pachanga to Benny Blanco from the Bronx.
    • "Naw, you stay here!" * BLAM*