Monday, March 10, 2014

Hot Damme! Screaming Al Pacino

Not too long ago, I checked out Stand Up Guys on Netflix.  It was a cute and funny "wise guys get old" flick with Al Pacino as a freshly released hood who has just finished serving 28 years for a job gone bad.  Christopher Walken co-stars as Pacino's best friend who picks him up and is also burdened with the job of killing Pacino as the son of a local crime boss was off'd in the botched heist all those years ago and said crime boss is still plenty pissed about it.  Alan Arkin shows up briefly as another member of their gang and the old timers relive their glory days of "kicking ass and chewing gum" while familiarizing themselves with modern things like Viagra and super charged sports cars.  Pacino was looking pretty worn out here and his signature screaming seemed to be replaced by a too tired to shout performance.

Growing up, the 3 seminal Pacino flicks in my viewing life were Dick Tracy, Scent of a Woman and Heat.  30 years ago, Pacino was all about the screaming and nobody did it better than him.  Nobody could alternate periods of calm reflection with bursts of discontented rage as powerfully or as imitable as Pacino.  Whenever I get fed up with someone's incompetence, I just want to channel my inner Big Boy Caprice from Dick Tracy and scream: "I'm looking for generals; what do I got?  Foot soldiers!"  Or when someone can't get their shit together, I can't help but want to send them a YouTube video of Pacino as Lt. Vincent Hanna in Heat yelling:  "Don't waste my mother fucking time!"

That brings us to Scent of a Woman, a flick that was on often in my VHS filled household as a kid.  I hadn't seen it in years before inheriting it on DVD recently.  I was shocked at the films running length of 2 hours and 37 minutes.  What do you even remember about that movie?  Young Phillip Seymour Hoffman (View in Peace) convincingly playing a rich douche bag.  Pacino always yelling at Chris O'Donnell while simultaneously teaching him about life and saying "hoo-ah" a lot.  The Tango scene.  The Ferrari test drive.  And finally, Screaming Al defending O'Donnell in a crowded lecture hall that ends with a standing ovation.

Rewinding a bit, 1992's Scent of a Woman is the story of young Charles Sims (O'Donnell), a prep school student from Oregon studying at an expensive and prestigious establishment in New England.  One night, Sims and another student witness some classmates setting up a prank on their head master.  Unwilling to snitch and offered a bribe, Sims is given the weekend to decide if he's going to rat or be expelled.  Meanwhile, Sims takes a Thanksgiving weekend job tending blind and retired veteran, Lieutenant Colonel Frank Slade (Pacino), a cantankerous man who drinks and smokes all day while making those around him miserable.  Slade has a plan to fly to New York first class, have an agreeable meal, see his brother, make love to a beautiful woman and to end the holiday, blow his brains out. 

I remembered Pacino being funny in an "asshole but not a fucking asshole" kind of way but he really is hard to like yet incredibly easy to watch.  He loves booze, woman and shocking people while masking his loneliness and self loathing.  By the end of the weekend of course, Slade doesn't kill himself, he and Sims have formed a bond and with the help of Slade's defense, Sims is neither expelled nor forced to snitch.  Based on an Italian novel and a film from 1974, Woman was directed by Martin Brest of Beverly Hills Cop fame and while leisurely, never comes off as overlong or bloated.  It's a beautiful film and come award time, was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Writing for Bo Goldman and won Pacino his first and only Oscar out of 8 nominations. 

Brest's next at bats wouldn't be so successful as 1998's Meet Joe Black, a story of Death coming to earth and falling in love, somehow managed to push the 3 hour mark while inexplicably costing $90 million bucks with nary a special f/x battle scene or exotic, hard to reach location in sight.  Then there was 2003's Gigli which, I'm sure you heard of in a negative context but never seen.  Suffice it to say, the flick didn't do well and Ben Affleck is only now coming out of the funk it helped induce.  However, I saw part of it on cable one night and laughed my ass off at Affleck's performance, he's truly a funny dude.  Pacino would follow up his award winning performance with solid turns in Heat, The Insider and Any Given Sunday before popping up as the villain in 2007's Ocean's Thirteen.  O'Donnell went on to play Robin in two Batman movies before "strapping on the nitro" for Vertical Limit and now makes a ton of cash hanging out with L.L. Cool J on TV juggernaut, NCIS:  Los Angeles.

The one and only:

No comments:

Post a Comment