Tag Archives: Penelope Ann Miller

Brian De Palma’s CARLITO’S WAY

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Join Frank and special guest host, Paul Sparrow-Clarke, as they talk in depth about one of Brian De Palma’s most underappreciated films, Carlito’s Way. Paul returned to PTS to discuss Carlito’s Way after joining Frank and Tom during their From Russia with Love podcast in their For Your Ears Only James Bond podcast series. We hope you enjoy the show!

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Peter Hyam’s The Relic 


Peter Hyam’s The Relic takes a smaller horror idea that usually services a low budget production and gives it the expensive, near blockbuster treatment. The result is a pretty damn fine creature feature flick that holds up better than it has any right too. When you’ve got a director like Hyams at the wheel though (see End Of Days), who is a meticulous perfectionist and often serves as DoP in addition to directing, you’re going to get class and durability all the way. Relic takes an ages old concept and injects wild screaming life into it; When an ancient artifact is brought from the South American jungle and stored at the Chicago museum of anthropology, trouble is not far off, for as we know in movie land, any ancient relic most definitely has a supernatural curse on it. Before too long a gigantic angry lizard thing from olden times awakens, tears through the building like the stampede from Jumanji and starts eating everyone it sees. It’s up to heroic police detective Vincent D’Agosta (Tom Sizemore in a rare lead role) and professor Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller, what ever happened to her?) to use their wits and survive long enough to defeat it. Linda Hunt, that sweet little munchkin, also has a nice role as the museum director. The film is just pure fun to watch, a solid popcorn banger that has the look and feel of an old school adventure film, or something by Stephen Sommers, albeit with a healthy helping of slimy gore. The creature is truly immense, and one feels the scope of it’s rampage as Hyam’s camera arcs through the vast hallways and mezzanines of the building, following the action in crisp, tactile strokes. Sort of a forgotten gem, but one that’s always fun to check out.
-Nate Hill

John Frankenheimer’s Dead Bang


John Frankenheimer’s Dead Bang makes no apologies for the straight up, down n’ dirty, violently obnoxious ninety minutes of rural crime mayhem it throws at you, containing no lofty subtext, tongue in cheek send ups or heady plot twists, purely and simply Don Johnson wiping out a gang of backwoods white supremacists and pissing off every superior officer along the way. A cop film to it’s roots, it’s a refreshing little diversion for Frankenheimer, who is known for taking on genre outings with ambitious undertones. Johnson is a flippant big city cop sent to the sticks to smoke out some neo-nazi assholes who are running guns, killing folks and all that fun stuff. He’s paired with a hysterically fussy FBI handler (William Forsythe, cast against type and loving it), and at odds with the psychotic ringleader of this gang (real life drill instructor Frank Military, also a solid actor), who proves to be quite a fly in the ointment. The action is rough and tumble and thoroughly R-rated, the villains are formidably nasty and Johnson’s cheeky super cop is wearily exasperated most of the time, out for the count but just gripping the edge as he hunts these yokels and deals with red tape including a department appointed shrink (Bob Balaban) who he hilariously mocks for looking like the Monopoly Guy in the film’s funniest bit, a riotous interlude. There’s scattershot work from Penelope Ann Miller, Mickey Jones, Michael Jeter, Tate Donovan and Garwin Sanford as well. Not a well known effort from firebrand Frankenheimer (I’ve heard some unbelievable stories from this set) but a really enjoyable shoot em up that deserves a far better rep. 

-Nate Hill

CARLITO’S WAY – A REVIEW BY J.D. LAFRANCE

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There was a lot of anticipation when Carlito’s Way was released in 1993. Director Brian De Palma had just come off a lukewarm reception for yet another Alfred Hitchcock homage, Raising Cain (1992) and was in need of a hit to appease the studios. And so, a re-teaming with Al Pacino in an effort to recreate the magic of Scarface (1983) made commercial sense. Carlito’s Way was much more somber in tone than the cinematic shotgun blast that is Scarface. It is a tragedy about how a criminal tries to go straight but is ultimately doomed from the get-go.

Carlito’s Way features one of the oldest chestnuts in the world. Narrating his story during the last moments of his life, Carlito Brigante (Pacino) is a veteran criminal recently released from prison and intent on leading a normal, law-abiding life. Of course, it isn’t going to be that easy and when he returns to his old neighborhood, his reputation precedes him. Local gangster Benny Blanco from the Bronx (John Leguizamo) is a cocky, up and comer who sets his sights on Carlito after he is shamed by him in public. Carlito, however, barely notices him as he’s torn between reuniting with an old flame, Gail (Penelope Ann Miller), a struggling Broadway dancer, and keeping his lawyer friend, David Kleinfeld (Sean Penn) out of trouble.

As a personal favor to David, Carlito runs a nightclub so that he can raise enough money to start his own business renting cars in a tropical paradise with Gail. However, Carlito’s loyalty to David will be his undoing because his friend has become so corrupt during the time that Carlito was in prison.

As always, De Palma injects the film with his trademark bravura action sequences, including one early on when Carlito accompanies his cousin on a routine drug deal that turns into a violent blood bath. One look at the set-up and, like Carlito, we know that something is not right. De Palma prolongs the violent confrontation for as long as possible, gradually building the tension as we feel Carlito’s apprehension. The director orchestrates the entire scene like a pro, knowing just how long to build things up before the inevitable eruption of violence.

Carlito is a role tailor-made for Al Pacino, allowing him to essay another larger-than-life character. Carlito is a smart guy who cannot escape what he is no matter how hard he tries and Pacino conveys the melancholy that lurks behind the bravado of his character. The real scene stealer, however, is Sean Penn’s sleazy, coked-up lawyer. The actor reportedly did the film to help finance his second directorial effort, The Crossing Guard (1995). For a paycheck role, Penn does a great job as he disappears into the character, complete with a frizzy afro and cheap suits. It’s almost as if Pacino’s presence inspired Penn to step up his game. And this makes Penn’s memorable turn so much fun to watch.

The rest of the cast is filled out by solid character actors like John Leguizamo, who plays Benny as a pushy little runt with a motor-mouth, and the always reliable Luis Guzman as Carlito’s right-hand man. The only miscasting is Penelope Ann Miller as Pacino’s love interest. She looks out of place and just doesn’t have the chops to hold her own against Pacino.

Despite the cliched premise, Carlito’s Way works so well because of the caliber of actors, David Koepp’s screenplay with memorable dialogue (“You think you’re big time?! You’re gonna fucking die big time!”), and De Palma’s stylish direction. This film is proof that given the right material, De Palma can still make a hell of an entertaining movie.