The film Scarface, directed in 1983 by Brian De Palma, is a remake of a film of the same name directed in 1932 by Howard Hawks. Spanned by 50 years, the two became reference films within the gangster genre, both being very influential in their time.
According to Newsweek, Universal Pictures is considering the idea of making a remake. If this remake of Scarface is made, it would demonstrate what a terrible failure the so-called war on drugs has been.
The 1932 Scarface was about the rise and fall of Tony Camonte – played by Paul Muni – an Italian gunman and criminal who serves as a lieutenant in one of Chicago’s most important mafias. With an ambition only surpassed by his cruelty, he helps his boss to get rid of his rivals until, finally, he ends up eliminating his own boss to become the absolute leader of the mafia, dedicated mainly to alcohol trafficking, prohibited since 1920 by the so-called “dry law.”
Scarface from 1983 tells the story of Tony Montana – played by Al Pacino -, a Cuban ex-convict who arrives in Miami during the Mariel exodus orchestrated by Fidel Castro in 1980. Also thanks to his ambition and ability to understand the world of crime, Tony grows to become the most important cocaine trafficker in America during the so-called “war on drugs”, initiated by Nixon and boosted by Reagan.
The new version of Scarface is still a rumor, although the names of Michael B. Jordan as the main character and Luca Guadagnino as director are being considered. Regardless of whether it ends up being filmed or not, this remake would be the demonstration of a failure.
And we are not referring to a box office failure or an artistic failure – something that usually happens with woke remakes -, but to the failure of the war on drugs.
The failure of the Scarface remake
The original 1932 film began with a text that read: “This picture is an indictment of gang rule in America, and of the callous indifference of the government to this constantly increasing menace to our safety and our liberty… Every incident in this picture is the reproduction of an actual occurrence, and the purpose of this picture is to demand of the government: what are you going to do about it?”
A year after its release, Prohibition was abolished. This put a stop to all the problems that prohibition had generated, which clearly exceeded – by far – those generated by alcoholism. Although its prohibition for more than a decade contributed to create and feed criminal networks that would remain forever.
Gambling and prostitution occupied these gangsters now that alcohol was no longer prohibited, until the popularization of other drugs such as cocaine and heroin. When in the ’70s the American government started the so-called “war on drugs”, these became the most lucrative business for the mafias.
Brian De Palma’s 1983 remake tells essentially the same story, but adapted to the times. The protagonist is no longer an Italian in Chicago, but a Latino in Miami. The weapon changes from a Colt M1921A Thompson to an M249 machine gun; and the substance prohibited by the government is no longer alcohol but mainly cocaine.
Tony Montana is sent to assassinate his Bolivian supplier because he does not comply with an order: to assassinate a lecturer who is going to give a speech at the United Nations.
This speech was meant to propose the legalization of drugs as the best way to end a problem that had gotten out of control. The “solution” to the problem had made it worse, just as Prohibition had done in its time. This is a speech that could have been signed by Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman.
Of course, the drug traffickers were totally against legalization, they knew perfectly well that their business and their huge profits came precisely from its prohibition.
The possible remake of Scarface seems that the race of the protagonist will change, perhaps the city will also change, and surely the weapon. But what will not change is the product, and this is because while after the release of the first film the prohibition law was eliminated, after the second nothing changed in terms of the war on drugs. Or if it did, it was to intensify. The war on drugs has been won by drugs, to the happiness of drug traffickers, criminals, politicians, and officials who live off prohibition.