Viking Night: Scarface

By Bruce Hall

May 10, 2011

It's good to be the drug king.

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They say that the biggest problem with Communism is that there’s no money in it. The government theoretically controls all aspects of production and distribution. Wealth and resources are shared equally by the public. Everyone is happy and every citizen wants for nothing because everyone has a piece of the pie. And, as we learned in ninth grade Political Science, it’s not that simple in real life. It doesn’t matter if everyone is equal if all they are is equally poor. When forced to live this way, populations become restive, so Communist societies seem to be almost inevitably oppressive. So take millions of poor and oppressed people. Put them on a sweltering, resource bare island, a stone’s throw from Miami Beach. Now imagine that you are one of these people. What would YOU do?

This is a simplified picture of Cuba in 1980. Faced with a collapsing economy and the threat of insurrection, Fidel Castro decided to allow over a hundred thousand unhappy citizens to simply leave. He put them on boats, pointed them at Florida and said “have fun!” But he wasn’t talking to the refugees, he was talking to the citizens of Miami. Because being who he is, Uncle Fidel also emptied his prisons, sending many thousands of killers and lunatics along for the ride. Most of the exodus were honest, hard working people who simply wanted a shot at opportunity. But some of them were the type who had allowed the hardships of Communist oppression to give them a sense of entitlement. And now they were entering an environment where if you were willing to give up your morals, you could make an endless amount of money. If you were one of these men, you felt the world owed you something. Therefore the world, and everything in it, was yours for the taking.


Two such men are Tony Montana (Al Pacino) and his friend Manny Ribera (Steven Bauer). They escape Cuba only to land in a refugee camp in Florida. They work their way out by executing a hit for a well connected drug lord named Lopez, and when freed, the two go to work for him. Lopez is a successful but cautious gangster, one who flies under the radar by putting his drug fortune into legitimate business ventures. But Tony and Manny aren’t businessmen. Tony in particular is a stone cold sociopath - impulsive, aggressive and completely incapable of remorse. Manny is no less of a criminal but he has a conscience, and secretly longs for stability and legitimacy. The ways in which this will divide them is clear from the start, but for now they’re inseparable as they take on their first big job for the Lopez syndicate.

Things go south but Tony and Manny prevail. And the drug world being what it is, Tony’s ruthless nature immediately establishes him as both monkey crap insane and as a potential leadership candidate. Every legendary outlaw has his first defining moment where it becomes clear to everyone in the room that the man they’re seeing is destined for great and terrible things. Tony’s moment comes quickly and thanks to that, he and Manny are made trusted enforcers for the Lopez operation. The two become proteges of Lopez’s right hand man, Omar (F. Murray Abraham). Omar is an older, even more pretentious version of Montana so predictably, they clash. Tony therefore deprives Omar of his job and his life.

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