L13FC: Al Pacino the Mentor

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A hearty thanks to everyone for a whole YEAR of Lucky 13 Film Club discussions! I am pleased to wrap up the year with one of my favorite movie bloggers, MARK at MARKEDMOVIES. Al Pacino is one his favorite actors and after thinking about an angle for approaching Pacino’s prolific career, we opted to narrow the focus to a theme–roles where he mentors younger, promising actors.

Mark says: 

When you think of the great Pacino performances, or the genre that he’s most renowned for, your memory will most likely be drawn back to the crime/cop films that he’s appeared in. That’s not to say that Pacino hasn’t tackled a diverse range of roles but it’s difficult to forget about the ones he’s most synonymous with: The Godfathers, Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Scarface or Heat; maybe even his grandstanding, comic-book, mob boss in Dick Tracy?! However, there are two that stand out from these aforementioned classics, yet somehow don’t quite get the same kudos and sometimes get lost in the shuffle. Carlito’s Way and Donnie Brasco are two Pacino great crime characters, but they’re also among a few of the last films that Pacino was involved in that were truly excellent pieces of cinema. Pacino’s, Carlito Brigante, is an aging Puerto Rican gangster who finds it’s a hard and fruitless task to shake off his shady past. As “Lefty” Ruggiero in Donnie Brasco, he is a tragic character, an aging gangster who has always been a criminal bottom-feeder, overlooked and past his prime. Both characters somewhat represent the career of Pacino himself: a criminal image he couldn’t shake off and another one so over the hill that he wasn’t taken seriously anymore.

With this in mind, Pacino was going through a period in his career in the 1990s when he would work with younger leading actors. He was well into his 50’s, but he  consistently seemed to pair-up with actors in their 30’s. Not just any younger actor, though. These were actors that were just hitting their stride: Sean Penn in Carlito’s Way (1993), John Cusack in City Hall (1996), Keanu Reeves  in The Devil’s Advocate (1997), Johnny Depp in Donnie Brasco (1997), and Russell Crowe in The Insider (1999). It’s a trend he would continue later in 2003 with Colin Farrell in The Recruit, Matthew McConaughey in Two For Money (2005), and Channing Tatum in The Son of No One (2011) – although the last two films are better forgotten about.

As you can see there has been a pattern among the films of Pacino and his support for the newly established leading man. It was the work of Penn, Depp and Crowe that benefited most, though. Unlike the other actors mentioned, Pacino didn’t just support them, they played a major contribution to the films themselves and in many ways complemented Pacino as much as he complemented them. Al has openly admitted to enjoying working with younger performers because he’s humble enough to admit that he can also learn from them. There could be another reason for him lending his support on such a regular basis, though, but you’d have to consider his own experiences to see why… 


It’s fair to say that it was playing Michael Corleone in The Godfather which catapulted Pacino’s career. However, the legendary Marlon Brando (as well as the producers) apparently weren’t keen on working with this relatively unknown, young actor and thought that Coppola was making a mistake. As we can now see, history has proven that Brando and Co. couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m just speculating here, but maybe this rejection from such an influential screen giant is what influenced Pacino to  work prominently with younger, up-and-coming talents? Pacino took a different approach than Brando, and it’s admirable to see that Pacino had as much faith in other younger actors and recognized the power of a veteran actor paired with young talent. There’s an underdog story to Pacino’s success as an actor, and who doesn’t love an underdog?

Cindy’s thoughts:


I enjoyed the partnership between Al Pacino and Chris O’Donnell in Scent of a Woman(1992). With characteristic gusto, Pacino deserved his only Oscar for Best Actor by playing the cranky, retired Army Ranger Lt. Colonel, Frank Slade. (Nice use of a character’s name, eh? He’s quite frank in speech and formidable as a stone.) Charley Simms (Chris O’Donnell) is the flustered, poor kid trying to survive at an East Coast prep school. George Willis Jr. (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the fleshy, slimy nemesis.


A leader in the military executes codes, sets expectations, and manages the brotherhood of soldiers. In this way, soldiering is like playing a crime boss; it’s easy for us to see Pacino in the role. Emasculated by his forced retirement, Frank over-compensates for his blindness, and who better than Al Pacino to act out that kind of pain with a booming voice and some hefty scene-chewing? Charley and Frank need each other much to their surprise, and their blossoming father/son relationship feels genuine. It is a delight to see the soft side of Frank, whose romantic sensibilities with women on the dance floor and attracts rather than repels. Frank “sees” the beauty within, and this sight allows him to see the integrity in Charley demonstrated during the riveting trial speech that saves Charley. Did Frank have this ability when he had sight? Perhaps, but I like the redemptive irony of the motif. It added a dimension to his character. It is a fine screenplay by Bo Goldman and one of my favorite Al Pacino performances.

As a veteran actor to emerging actor or character to character, Al Pacino’s role as mentor is interesting. Which film do you like best? 

110 Comments on “L13FC: Al Pacino the Mentor

  1. I think that Donnie Brasco is one of the finest modern crime dramas, as well as being a complete film in every way. The entire cast give what may be their best-ever performances in a story that makes you feel for both the good guy, and the gangster too. As for mentoring, it is a double example of how Pacino not only mentors Depp in a familiar way, but the character of Lefty mentors Donnie with genuine affection, almost replacing the son he has lost to drugs. Since first watching this on release, I have watched it many times on DVD, and TV showings. Lefty’s departure from his apartment, knowing he goes to certain death, is one hell of a fine piece of acting by Pacino.

    As for Scent Of A Woman, I may be the only film-fan on Earth who truly hates this film. I struggled through it because of Pacino, always waiting for something good to happen. But he over-acted, as he tends to do in some of his later roles. He substitutes shouting for acting, and bluster instead of the nuance that he is capable of. I couldn’t believe he won an Oscar for it, and have never sat through it again. And this was five years before his magnificent turn in Donnie Brasco. Unbelievable.

    Sorry, Cindy. I enjoyed the theme a great deal. Thanks to you and Mark for presenting it this month.
    Best wishes as always, Pete.

    • Hi Pete. I disagree with the bluster minus nuance. I think Frank needed to shout and be loud. 1. He’s recently blind. His vocals would be louder. 2. He’s a lion with a huge thorn in his paw. He supposed to roar. 3. His damaged ego, getting old and tossed aside to live in “the dog house” with very little communication with the outside world had him begging with negative attention. He was obnoxious on purpose to get the attention he desperately craved. 4. Yes, he was melodramatic, but hell, I’ve met real people who acted like Frank. It didn’t bother me. If there’s an imbalance, it might rest with Chris O’Donnell who couldn’t interact enough (like Penn or Depp) but I would argue they were perfect foils, Frank and Charley.

      • I was sure you would disagree, Cindy. Everyone I know loves that film. All your points are valid, but I just can’t get his performance. It just annoyed me. maybe it was supposed to.
        Sorry to have to differ on this one, but I have to be honest of course.
        Best wishes, Pete.

        • No worries, I like honesty. Let’s talk about Donnie Brasco and Carlito’s Way. I preferred Carlito’s Way much more. Brian de Palma gave it an elegance and the score was lovely which made it less depressing and cold compared to DB. Let’s disagree again, Pete. I’ll say it: I didn’t much care for Donnie Brasco! Yes, the acting was fine, Depp was perfect with Al Pacino, I agree the nuances as old, overlooked, is legitimate, but I couldn’t care for him. It’s hard to care for a gangster.
          Now, Carlito’s Way –even though his PR accent was off at times, I enjoyed his personality and the love interest. Sean Penn was amazing, and I was glued from opening frame to the roll of the credits. I saw it for the first time the other night, and I’d watch it over again. The boat killing, train station chase, the narration adds to his character, I LOVED it.

          • I liked it a lot. I saw it on release, and have watched it since. Good pace, convincing cast, (John Leguizamo is very good) and nice to see Penn out of character. But it was glossy, because of de Palma. He is always glossy. Donnie Brasco had realistic sets, realistic criminals, and a gritty feel lacking in CW. Now you know I was going to say that, didn’t you?
            Did you care for Carlito? He was a gangster. I felt sorry when he got killed, and never got to see that paradise on the poster.

    • Thanks for your input Pete. I too think that Donnie Brasco is a very accomplished crime drama that often gets left out when the best of the genre are mentioned. It’s a fabulous film and it’s a fabulous Pacino performance.

      As for Scent of a Women, I did have issues with it. I hated the ending, where it succumbs to Hollywood formula but I have to side with Cindy’s argument on why Pacino is so effective. Without him, the film would have surely suffered. I’m not the biggest fan of Al shouting a performance in but in Scent of Women I thought it was required and he absolutely nailed it.

      • Thanks for replying, Mark. I am sure that this film would have not have been the same without Pacino. It might not have even been made, which is naturally not a bad thing, from my point of view. Thanks for your contribution to the L13FC. It was most enjoyable.
        Best wishes from Norfolk. Pete.

      • I’ll agree the ending was tied up with a Hollywood bow, but honestly, he wasn’t always yelling. I LOVE this scene–full of nuance + explosion.

  2. Hi, Cindy:

    I’ll toss out a kind of early Al Pacino cross country film. ‘Scarecrow’. With Gene Hackman as hobos. Pacino plays Lion. A sailor who wants to see his son born while he was at sea, Hackman plays Max, an ex con and boxer with a dream of opening a car wash in Pittsburgh, PA.

    Though not really a mentor. Pacino is much more a conscience to keep hot headed Max in line as they travel eastward.

    Great catches on ‘Scent Of A Woman’, ‘Carlito’s Way’ and ‘City Hall’.

    • Someone else suggested ‘Scarecrow’ and I’m embarrassed I’ve not seen it to agree or disagree, but I can only presume such great personalities like Hackman and Pacino, who like to fill the room with their voices, I bet their chemistry is great. Thanks, Kevin!

    • Sadly, I can’t comment on Scarecrow either, Jack. I own it and I have watched the first 20mins of so. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to finish it as I was only having a taster. That said, the taster was great and I’m very eager to getting around to finishing it.

  3. It’s great to see this as a complete piece, Cindy. I’m happy you invited to me get involved this month (and to the one to finalise your year of Lucky 13, no less). I’m honoured! Thank you! πŸ™‚

  4. Some keen thoughts on one of the greatest actors I’ve had the pleasure of watching for most of my lifetime. CARLITO’S WAY (for Brian De Palma, another great) and DONNIE BRASCO really showed that Frances Ford Coppola grand criminal saga couldn’t typecast him. And he still mesmerizes those that watch him. Take last week’s HEAT reunion and discussion. The man is bigger than life and a joy to watch in whatever he does.

    While I don’t hate SCENT OF WOMAN, I feel this was Academy’s make-up call, still. Yeah, he’s a blast to watch, but like Pete said, he’s got scene-chewing and overacting set on ’11’ here. He does have that quality Cindy states of command leadership, now set adrift by his disability, and that’s why I don’t totally dislike the film. When all is said and done, Al should have won 1974’s Best Actor Oscar for THE GODFATHER PART II, which the vaunted Academy gave to Art Carney (a fine actor) for HARRY AND TONTO. This was their way of setting it right.

    Just no getting around the fact that Al Pacino remains a consummate acting pro. Able to command a screen, and yet work well with others.

    • Welcome, Michael. Please see my defense under Pete’s comment. Okay, I understand compared to the other great ones, SoW seems like a token Oscar (kind of like DiCaprio or Paul Newman) But, I still think it was a fine performance worthy of an Oscar. I gotta say something about Carlito’s Way and Donnie Brasco, but give me a minute….

      • Yes, I did read your impassioned defense of SoW. Kudos, you’ve got to believe in something that means a lot to you when it comes to cinema. Love that. There are aspects of Pacino’s performance that I do admire in the film, to be clear. It’s just that, overall, I’ve seen better by the man without the extra volume; and let’s face it, O’Donnell’s role pales next to Al’s, and in one of the few times a pairing in a film of his that doesn’t work as well as it should. Again, just my opinion in one of few times we’ve differed. No hard feelings. πŸ™‚

        • No worries. I’m not offended. Most men adore Al in crime films and rarely mention SoaW. Maybe because I’m female, I saw the feminine side to Frank. I felt his pain. Something about that performance reminded me of my grandfather. Sooo, the resonance is an emotional one, methinks.

          • This is a good point, Cindy, and it gets the heart of Pacino’s career. So many people expect a certain character from him but it’s often overlooked how sensitive he can be. Scent of a Woman shows a vulnerability from him and another great film (and performance) I would mention is Frankie & Johnny. I normally hate romantic films. My teeth can’t deal with the sugar but Pacino and Pfieffer are a great pairing and it’s one of the better romantic dramas. Al has a softer side too.

          • I was thinking just the other day about Al Pacino and imagined what he thinks about working with Pfieffer. They feel like Bogart & Bacall.

          • Yes, FRANKIE & JOHNNY was another unexpected pairing that worked wonderfully.

            Okay, you two have convinced me to give SCENT OF A WOMAN another go because of this thread. No promises that I’ll like it more, but the sensitive side of me wishes to take it in from that perspective. πŸ˜‰

      • Click on the ‘Reply’ button on the email WordPress sent, also make sure you check the checkbox to see all comment replies when you submit a comment. That way, you’ll get a message with that ‘Reply’ button on it — helped me a couple of months back. HTH

          • Sorry, Michael, but it doesn’t open for me. Let me guess. He yells a lot. Lloyd mentioned the other day he thought there might be a slight mentor connection with Jamie Foxx. Do you agree? I honestly don’t remember too much about it other than it was fast and furious and Cameron Diaz was once very beautiful. Oops, it looks like the speech has uploaded. I’ll watch it now.

          • Here’s a URL that hopefully will work, and yeah, there’s a slight mentor connection with Jamie Foxx’s character:

          • I just watched it. At around the 2 minute mark, he gathers momentum with his “we’re gonna claw our way to the 1 inch line.” Overall, it’s a not so melodramatic as other monologues like in Devil’s Advocate or Scent of a Woman.

          • Yeah, he doesn’t have to be as boisterous as compared with those mentioned…but he does have to be something else that hasn’t been mentioned: inspirational.

          • When I saw Any Given Sunday at the movies I did not care for it and have not been able to get into in the years since but there are weighty themes in it. I’ll give it that and the older I get the more I get it I guess. Cameron Diaz can still bring it I think but I did prefer when she was more curvy in The Mask then when she followed many a starlet’s path and got ‘healthy’ or some shit and lost weight on an already thin frame. Check out Knight and Day, she was great in that and alright I’ll admit it, The Other Woman I didn’t hate. :-/ Whatever you think of Any Given Sunday though that final speech is superb. All great speeches have a kernel of truth about life that will reasonate and then just a little ounce of BS to get people to believe in themselves and eachother because in the end belief in one selves is the difference between winning and losing, between LIVING AND DYING! Now I can’t do it for you! Sorry I got a bit carried away there. Oddly another I mentioned this speech in one of my blogs recently. I suggested Warner Bros should watch it before going forward with their DC films.:-)

          • Fine and wonderfully valid points, Lloyd. And yes, I very much enjoyed Ms. Diaz in the ‘Bond Girl’-perspective KNIGHT AND DAY. πŸ™‚

          • It’s been ages since I’ve seen Any Given Sunday, Michael. I have to admit, though, I wasn’t a big fan of the film at all.

          • I’d have to admit I didn’t like it much either. It’s interesting to note that Al plays leadership roles. Can you think of any where he’s weak and a follower–other than Donnie Brasco?

          • That’s a good question, Cindy. Dog Day Afternoon springs to mind somewhat. As much as he’s the decision maker in the film, Pacino plays him very much as a vulnerable man way in over his head. That’s still Pacino’s best performance for me. I think he’s phenomenal in that film.

          • Serpico, Dog Day Afternoon, Carlito’s Way would be mine, I am thinking, although there are still several of his films I haven’t seen. He brings intensity to all his roles consistently over 40 years.

          • A friend of mine likes to always mention the scene in Heat with Hank Azaria. Al Pacino is questioning Azaria’s character when he trails off. Pacino improvised and leaned into Hank and yelled “Cause she’s got a great ass!”. Needless to say Azaria’s reaction was genuine and made it into the final cut. You see the stillness and quietness of Al Pacino in The Godfather and can’t quite be floored by what he has become. The growl in his voice seemed and weathered face seemed to arrive with Sea of Love in 1989 and grow from there. I think a lot of people have been right to point out Donnie Brasco as a highlight from the second more recent era but I think there are worthy performances from shouty older Pacino. Sea of Love, Scent of a Woman, Carlito’s Way and Devil’s Advocate and Heat most prominently amongst them. I’ll discuss further. πŸ™‚

          • Thanks, Lloyd for your list of faves. No one has mentioned his playing Skylark in the ‘Merchant of Venice’. He was outstanding in the Shakespeare adaptation. Also, I missed ‘Finding Richard’ and ‘Danny Collins’but I hear he’s loud. I’d still like to watch him in them.

          • That’s an interesting way to look at it, Lloyd. One that I wouldn’t discount at all. He was certainly a mentor in his fabulous directorial outing Looking For Richard. I’m never seen Shakespeare so effortlessly translated. That a film that should viewed by anyone who struggles with Shakespeare’s prose.

        • Great shout, Pete. Sea of Love is a fabulous film. And it was great to see Pacino bounce back with that one, after the disaster of Revolution.

    • Why Al didn’t get the best Actor for The Godfather II is absolutely beyond me, Michael. In fact, the academy has overlooked him far too many times when he should have been the hands-down winner. That aside, he is truly one of the greats. I’m more partial to Bob, of course, but Al is up there with the finest.

      I’m envious of your evening with the Heat discussion. That sounded superb. I also missed an evening in Glasgow last year where Pacino visited my home town to do a talk on his career. The tickets were extortionate but he happened to sell out the biggest venue in the city. I wish I had seen it.

    • Devil’s Advocate is a vastly underrated film from Pacino. Many had issues with it but I really enjoyed it myself. It also happens to be one of Keanu Reeves’ better performances. I wonder how much he raised his game who’ll working alongside Pacino?

  5. Excuse this random comment but as I’m having some issues replying, I’m only doing it in order to click the button so I can receive comments by email. Apologies for the technical difficulties . πŸ™‚

  6. Good to see Donnie Brasco, Carlito’s Way and Scent of a Woman highlighted; of the three Carlito’s Way is my favourite…one of the best crime films of the 1990’s (a strong decade for them, too). I’ve only caught SOAW the once but was entertained by the overacting. I’d like to watch that again sometime.

    Much as I like Sea Of Love and Frankie & Johnny I’ve never been sure about Pacino’s decision to try and reinvent himself as a romantic lead in the 80s, but glad he gave it a go. He seems a much more natural fit for serious crime dramas. Here’s a question for you both, though…aren’t the number of ‘mentor’ roles or the number of Pacino films in which there’s also a younger up-and-coming/hipper actor appearing alongside him just indicative of Hollywood predictability/formula and a general lack of decent options for certain actors once they become typecast or hit their mid-to-late 50s? The best film Pacino appeared in during the 1990s was Heat, even though it’s not his best performance; it’s interesting that he’s not in a mentor role in that movie (though conversely de Niro is, to two or three different characters!)

    Anyway, enjoyed reading and congratulations on a year of Lucky 13s Cindy, I’ve enjoyed taking part and reading some interesting opinions. Stu.

    • I’d agree with you on Carlito’s Way, Stu. I think it’s one of the 90’s best films. I actually think it’s a near masterpiece of the genre and a great loose tie-in with DePalma’s Scarface. Pacino’s Carlito is almost what would become of Tony Montana if he was still kicking around.

      Great point on the predictability of Hollywood and the mentor pairings. There’s a strong argument for this being the case but Pacino has openly admitted to enjoying working with younger actors. I’d like to think he had some decision making in these films.

      • I’m long overdue a rewatch on Carlito’s Way. I don’t even own it, but really like the film…in fact I’ve just spotted it’s available on Amazon for 30p in a box set with Scarface and Casino (the latter of which I already have, but what the hell). Bingo!

        I think there’s something in the comment above about Brando being a bit of a dick to him initially, which is maybe why he’s gone down that route.

    • Hi Stu, great questions and opinions; I always love it when you pop round to give your two cents. “… indicative of Hollywood predictability/formula and a general lack of decent options for certain actors once they become typecast or hit their mid-to-late 50s?” I would respond to this, no. That is, all veteran actors will have a role or two where they are mentors, but it’s pretty amazing that Pacino has so many of them. Also, Mark’s point was the tie in with the Pacino the actor mentoring younger, promising actors because he was an underdog when he began his career. Starting out working with Marlon Brando had to have been intimidating. Brando’s lack of support fueled in Pacino a decision to help out the next generation. I think of his peers like Robert DeNiro, Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Paul Newman, Clint Eastwood, and they don’t have the same relationships, the mentor relationships, the extent of them, that Al Pacino has had in the 90s and 00s.

      • When you mention his peers, Cindy, it’s hard to argue with this point. None of them have went to the extent that Pacino has in terms of his support to younger actors.

      • Fair enough Cindy, I’m not going to argue to the contrary, as I’ll only be speculating and it does look like he was actively seeking relevant projects! I definitely think there’s something in the idea that initial dealings with Brando that maybe made him more thoughtful about working with younger actors in the future. There may even have been experiences when he was starting out on stage that fuelled this too…who knows?!

        • It’s fun to speculate, I am not that interested in “being right”. I watched his Oscar speech and at the end he made sure to mention an aspiring actress from the Bronx where they are both from. It gives insight to his priorities with the acting business.
          He felt it important to help out the next generation of actors. I loved that unselfish quality about him. No pomp or circumstance or pride.

          • You’re making me forgive him for several acting atrocities during the 2000’s!!! πŸ˜€ I’m joking – he’s one of my favourite actors and I have enjoyed the recent signs of a comeback (Danny Collins and Manglehorn).

  7. Also…just occurred to me but I guess it’s relevant…it’s interesting that in one of his better performances of the era you were both talking about initially – Glengarry Glen Ross, which I forgot about in my earlier comment, but it’s up there with Heat – he’s actually playing someone who has been mentored by Jack Lemmon’s character Shelly, only the tables have turned. Now Shelly’s on the scrap heap and Pacino’s character has become the man who is in a position to dish out advice to his colleagues.

        • He gets called into the office because he’s been found out he stole the leads. Ross goes out for a Chinese lunch. A tragic character right along the lines of Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman.

        • I might be remembering wrong but I think Al was having the phone ringing with a nervous client pulling the pin. Essentially Pacino was about to begin his downward slide to where Lemmon had ended up in as we begin the story.

          • The message was clear: it’s a risky, crappy field to work in as a career. Right now flipping houses is the new risky entrepreneurial adventure in the States. I don’t know….

    • Another great highlight. I’m a hug fan of Glengarry Glen Ross but it’s not actually because of Pacino. I love Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin and, the one you mention, Jack Lemmon. It’s Lemmon’s film for me.

      • They’re all great – and Pryce, Arkin and Spacey. I would say it’s all about the ensemble in that one!

          • Ha! I rented it last night. WOW. All I gotta say is Jack Lemmon blew the rest out of the water with his acting. He’s always been one of my favorite actors EVER and Glengarry Glen Ross only reminds of how talented Jack Lemmon was. Was it his best performance? I think so! That said, everyone else was great,too. Alec Baldwin gets type cast as the hard-hitting, asshole boss, because he does it so well–I’m guessing it was this role which he played to perfection that got that stereotype started. What a fine play adaptation and enjoyable film all around. Made my evening.

          • He is excellent in this one. I love all the cast here, I don’t think anyone lets the ensemble down.

  8. Wow so much to talk about and so finely talked about already by so many. I’ll do my best to just add my 5 cents. Firstly Mark I absolutely agree that out of the films with him as mentor Carlito’s Way, Donnie Brasco and The Insider are probably the best and Penn, Depp and Crowe are the best actors and performances from the list. In fact I’d go further and I apologise because your memory is so much fresher with these films. The Insider is Russell Crowe’s film, I don’t care so much about Pacino’s journalist and no doubt Crowe lifted his game opposite Pacino but he’s easily the best thing about the film for me. Secondly Penn transformed himself for Carlito’s Way and really made a splash and of a comeback in that film. While considering younger than Pacino at the time I don’t recall too much of a mentor aspect to their characters other than Penn is weasel trying to prove himself and acting without forethought at all times whereas Carlito knows the cost of such actions and wants to go another way. An older and wiser cat seeing the error of his ways. It’s been a while but I love old dogs rallying for one last round in stories. I enjoyed Carlito’s way quite a bit, I agree with Pete it’s flashier filmmaking than Donnie Brasco and that crime story has been repeated a million times but Masterson, Pacino, Penn and De Palma make it fresh, exciting and poignant. This is the older growlier Pacino dialled down and still as charismatic as hell. When he yells here it feels organic. Donnie Brasco well I think Pete and you and countless others have already mentioned what is great about it. What I think is unlike say Penn or Crowe, Depp like Reeves and O’Donnell were really lucky to be cast with the legend and not necessarily seen at least at the time as his equal. Depp too as a pretty boy was stretching here in all kinds of different ways. Most comfortable revelling in his matinee idol looks when doing a John Waters film, the closest he came to romcoms was something like Benny and Joon. Depp was most comfortable with Tim Burton hidden behind disguises and doing something out there. Two years earlier he’d just done What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? Now here is pumping iron playing an F B Eye agent in a crime film. I think working with Pacino legitimised as one of the good actors of his generation the way some of his previous directors did and gives both actors a classic that continues to stand out in their celebrated filmographies.

  9. Cindy you really couldn’t have put it better about the appeal of Frank Slade and also the justification for Pacino playing it the way he does. As you well know some military leaders are most in command when they lower their voice not when they raise it. Pacino understood this too when he effortlessly projected the power of young Michael Corleone. But often in the military the fastest way to get people moving is to bring the noise and men when they hurt don’t cry-they yell. Add to that being blind and you got everything that informs Pacino’s choices. The link you shared is my favourite scene in the film. Not the one with the pistol and not the beautifully written speech that seldom takes place in real life. No Pacino’s anger is right there but also silence. He’s got nothing in reply so he’s just getting more mad but trying to hide it. Every flaw laid bare, all his pretensions undone. Defending Charlie is nothing but a convenient excuse to unleash that anger but it does telegraph where their relationship is headed. Then his brother, portly and grey with a live well lived raising a middle class family pulls him back. He couldn’t physically beat him but it’s his brother. When they say goodbye it breaks my heart. We fear we’re going to end up being the fuck up at the family table or be the sibling asking someone to leave. A classic example of write a scene that will reasonate with the audience. Anybody ever had every family gathering go perfect without a hiccup? Good for you.

  10. In addition, Scent of a Woman may play music, have witty one liners and beautiful New York locations to be anything but a Hollywood film but damn it is it not well made. Is it not a perfect example of when you get things right. Plus when I watched it the first time, I got to tell you I was young but the stakes seemed high and real. I didn’t predict the outcome and I’m still happy to watch it every time it comes on TV. Slick? Maybe. Hammy scenery chewing from Pacino? Sure. Both of these things make it entertaining as hell? You bet.

    • Agreed, Lloyd. Scenery chewing does ensue but damned if it’s not still great to watch. Pacino’s blind colonel still has a soft spot under his tough exterior and I defy anyone not to be convinced that Pacino actually was blind. I’ve studied his performance intently and his eyes miraculously never seem to focus on anything. It’s outstanding work in a flawed but very entertaining film.

  11. One more thing. Chris O’Donnell is an earnest young man with integrity in the film. He plays it beautifully and is not meant to steal the scene off arguably the greatest actor of his generation. I’d argue Chris had to work hard to build a career for himself with a persona that didn’t play to him being a boy but here he is suitably well cast and more than competent. Keanu Reeves? Well that’s a tough one for me. Sometimes I kind of shake my head. There has never been a more natural performer and likeable persona. Many equals but when Reeves is on point he’s been good. Speed, The Matrix, Point Break, heck even The Replacements was fun. When he talks about the dog in John Wick you remember of yeah the kid has limitations. So it’s easy to forget that before Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure and Parenthood he was playing a teenager who’s friend committed suicide in Personal Best. The persona of the former two has haunted his career. Those actions films of the 90s even banked on that kind of surfer cool dude persona. So let’s point out that he did pretty well against River Phoenix in My Own Private Idaho and for my money was pretty damn great with Big Al in The Devil’s Advocate. While Pacino is having the time of his life mugging for the camera, any natural bewilderment of Reeves part suits the character and his pain over what is happening with Charlize Theron is genuine and moving. If we’re talking about who benefitted the most by acting with Al Pacino and whose characters were true mentor-mentee roles well then these are the two for me.

    • Another fine point that I agree with, Lloyd. O’Donnell does a great job playing alongside Pacino. Like you say, he’s not out to steal scenes. He’s out to play it down and he captures that awkward teenage gait very well.

      As for Reeves, the man is a total enigma. Sometimes, he’s absolutely woeful and then there’s moments from him that are actually quite impressive. I believe Personal Best was called Permanent Record in my neck of the woods but, yeah, he delivers good work. I was also quite impressed with River’s Edge and the best I’ve ever seen him was a redneck wife-beater in Sam Raimi’s The Gift. That aside, I thought his work in Devil’s Advocate was actually quite good. He seemed to raise his game against Al and I liked what I saw.

      • Uh, ahem funny thing I believe Personal Best was called Permanent Record in my neck of the woods too. πŸ™‚ Full disclosure, I haven’t seen it yet or Feeling Minnesota? which might be good but I’ve seen Idaho, Advocate and The Gift and I agree he’s pretty good.

  12. Mark just wanted to point out, I knew Pacino and Coppola went to the mat with the studio for him to be cast but I had no idea Brando didn’t approve. That was very interesting and I think you make a good point about how it informs his later choices.

    • Yeah, I wasn’t aware of this until recently either, Lloyd. Pacino has often mentioned the support that Brando provided. But in the early stages of The Godfather, apparently Brando wasn’t keen.

  13. Woo hoo! Glad to see Mark hosting Lucky 13! There are so many great Pacino movies and it’s interesting that a lot of my faves are featuring him w/ a younger actor: The Insider, Scent of a Woman, Devil’s Advocate. But of course one of my all time faves features him & his peer of equal talent, Robert De Niro, in Heat.

    • Ha! Thanks Ruth. And thanks for bringing Bob into the conversation. πŸ˜‰ I tried my best to leave him out but he has a habit of creeping in again.

    • Ruth, Hi! If you haven’t seen Scent of a Women, you will love the tender side of Frank Slade. O’Donnell was cute and innocent and it was fun to see Philip Seymour Hoffman begin his career here playing the manipulative, spoiled student. It’s a beautiful film.

      • Oh I have seen Scent of A Woman, on the big screen too w/ my brother years ago! It’s one of my fave Pacino films, I mean that Tango scene is incredible. Yes Hoffman plays the villain of the story, and he’s pretty memorable.

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  15. You’re memory serves you well, Lloyd. I actually think that The Insider belongs to Russell Crowe too. I thought he was outstanding and Pacino actually seemed happy to step aside a little and allow Crowe to flourish. It’s still Crowe’s best performance for me.

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  17. Hmmm … My biggest problem with Pacino’s work in Scent of a Woman is that I’ve seen the original Italian movie. with Vittorio Gassman, and there is really no comparison — Pacino’s noisy, shameless scenery-chewing performance can’t touch Gassman’s nearly poetic work. Plus the film itself is a train-wreck (Nearly 3 hrs? Are you kidding me?).

    Anyhow, I think Pacino has become increasingly mannered as he got older (I think it all started with Scarface). Less is better (in most cases). I thought he was at his best in The Godfather films (he is absolutely mesmerizing in Part II) and he should have won the Oscar for Serpico. Donnie Brasco was reminiscent of his (best) work in the 1970s, though.

    • Hi Eric, well I haven’t seen Gassman’s film and have never heard of Scent of a Woman as an American version of it. Cool! I’ll have to rent that and compare performances.

      • I was biased against the remake from the get-go. I couldn’t help it! The original is a more delicate, more complex satire. The remake is definitely glossier. Very different approaches.

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