Carlito’s Way – tape 2039

Here’s Carlito’s Way, a Brian De Palma film I have never watched. And I always get it confused with Donnie Brasco, another film I have never seen.

It starts off with Al Pacino getting shot, so I’m presuming the whole film is a flashback. The score sounds like Patrick Doyle is channeling Pino Donnagio (who, I guess, was always channeling Bernard Hermann for De Palma). All lush strings.

Then, we’re in 1975, and Pacino is getting his 30 year prison sentence dropped because his lawyer proved the evidence was tainted.

His lawyer is played by Sean Penn, they’ve known each other since Penn was in Law School.

There’s some egregious pan and scan work here to try to get two people in the same frame. De Palma loves having characters at the extreme opposites of the frame, and the telecine operator is squashing it as much as he can to fit them both in. Horrible.

The love of his life is Penelope Ann Miller, a dancer.

He really wants to go straight, but it’s hard when everyone he knows is involved in some crime or another. Even his lawyer, Penn, is in trouble, he pocketed money from a mobster that was supposed to pay off a witness, and now the mobster is pressuring him to help him escape.

Pacino agrees to help Penn with the breakout, but Penn kills the mobster. This doesn’t end well for him.

Surprisingly, he survives, this, but now the DA wants Pacino’s help to put Penn away. They already have tape of Penn lying about Pacino being back in dealing drugs.

But Pacino can’t bring himself to cooperate with the police, even given the evidence of Penn being a complete arsehole.

So the film now heads towards a tense climax, as Pacino has to try to get himself and Miller on the train out of town, avoiding the mobsters who want him dead. I predict a tragic ending, based on the opening.

This is De Palma doing that thing he does. Long takes, swooping camera, chases in crowded public spaces, and you really want him to get away, because, for once, here’s a gangster story where the gangster genuinely has reformed, and is desperately trying to make a new life for himself, while surrounded by the worst of people.

The performances in the film are also excellent, particularly Pacino and Penn. And, as noted before, Patrick Doyle turns out to be a great composer for De Palma.

After this, recording continues, and there’s a whole extra film. It’s Tarzan and the Lost Safari, and excuse me if I don’t watch it for you. I used to watch Ron Ely as Tarzan as a child, and I think I’m all Tarzanned out. Except for the Disney Tarzan which I like.

Following this, the start of another Tarzan epic, Tarzan’s Revenge. The tape runs out shortly in.


  • Television X
  • Always
  • Ariel
  • Magnum
  • Ford Escort
  • Anadin Extra
  • trail: Boxing
  • trail: Malice
  • KFC
  • Head & Shoulders
  • BNFL
  • Chatback
  • trail: Deep Space Nine/Renegade
  • trail: Undercover Blues


  1. Seeing Carlito’s Way on a very big cinema screen was a great experience. It’s probably too sentimental, but De Palma, Pacino and Penn are so engaged with the material that it turns out grand and almost operatic. Remarkably, the showdown at the station was mostly improvised when their original location of the World Trade Center had to be cancelled when a bomb went off there.

    I’d recommend the recent documentary simply called De Palma, where he was sat down and allowed to relate all these anecdotes about his movies, he’s a very entertaining raconteur.

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