Probably Al Pacino’s best work,Scarface released in 1983, tells of the rise and fall of a Cuban native who came to America and achieved the so-called American dream. In one hand, that’s what made the story appealing because it showed that everyone, anyone, can get a piece of the pie.
However, Scarface has a cult following among the black community, especially those in the inner city, not because Tony Montana was an underdog who made it but because of the means from which he did it — drugs and violence.
Drugs and violence are two of the most destructive elements of the black inner city but yet they are the two most glorified aspects of that community. Rappers rap about it and Hollywood brings them to the big screen.
The ironic thing is that Scarface has more of an appeal to blacks than 1991’s New Jack City, a more hood version of Scarface. Nino Brown, played by Wesley Snipes, was not only black (obviously) but was just as ruthless and more of an entrepreneur owning half of the projects for his business. The cast included Chris Rock as the addict-gone-informant Pookie, Mario Van Peebles and Ice-T.
Now on Friday, Hollywood will be releasing American Gangster starring Denzel Washington as Frank Lucas, a heroin dealer from Harlem during the late 1960s adn early 1970s. Lucas is famous for becoming a drug lord by transporting pure heroin from Vietnam over to America by using the coffins and bodies of dead servicemen.
As interesting as Lucas’s story may be, I think the movie’s theme of drug and violence will send a wrong message to the black youth. Drugs means fast money even if it turns violent.
And even though Washington said that he is not playing the role of Lucas to glorify him — Universal did it for him.