Carlito’s Way, directed by gangster film auteur Brian DePalma, is a tantalizing view into the post-prison world of a gangster. It features Al Pacino as Carlito, Sean Penn as his unjust Lawyer, and Penelope Ann Miller as Carlito’s long-time love interest, Gail. Carlito has a heavy sense of regret and re-establishment, but also holds the idea that you don’t rat on your friends, his most dangerous of ideas; this gets him in a harmful situation when he is sitting in the D.A., asking to testify against his heinous lawyer. He refuses, no matter the result.
The main-plot of Carlito’s way is ex-racketeer Carlito’s attempt at getting clean and staying away: It follows him. Through family, through his area, and through the respect people have come to know him through. He has to get out, with Gail, and go live out the remainder of his life. The film boasts the usual great performance from Al Pacino, but Sean Penn should be noted for such a great performance playing an ugly role as a corrupt lawyer. As the lawyer, he perfects the nervous ticks, the coke-sniffles and paranoia, and the reassuring talk of his lawyer-magic; his character itself is an embodiment of unjust admiration, to be able to do what he does at night and wake up in his own office, with secretaries, doing the duties that a lawyer does.
Carlito still has the street-smarts he had before, but toned down; when a punk street-thug, Benny, approaches him in his night-club, asking for his girl who is with the lawyer at the time, the Lawyer pulls a gun on him: Carlito’s got to take Benny out back, for the sake of respectability in the club. He decides to give mercy though, and tells his men to just leave him: This might possibly tick something in the heads of his men, seeing that they will go nowhere in the Darwinian world of the streets if they stick with Carlito.
With powerhouse acting on all sides, Carlito’s way forms an allegory on the one-way train, the profession that once you get in, it’s impossible to get out. Complex, hard-hitting, and plain entertaining, Carlito’s way is one of the top gangster films by Director Brian DePalma.