Great Character #4: Tony Montana

Before I begin I just want to say that I’m going to assume everyone here has seen the movie Scarface (1983) with Al Pacino, or if you haven’t, you have been around so many other people who have that they already so much about the movie there wouldn’t be anything left to spoil anyways.

Moving on, Scarface is one of the best gangster movies I’ve ever seen.  I love it for a few reasons, the whole attainment of the American Dream story has always appealed to me.  The main thing that appealed to me was the main character, Tony Montana.

He’s the stereotypical tragic hero.  The man whose strength, will and determination not only got him to the top, but also caused his downfall.  It’s an epic progression of character that I can relate to easily.  I’ve often times been a little too stubborn and foolhardy on a path for my own good.

I’ll be honest though, this one scene is what totally makes the character for me (explicit language warning):

This scene resonates very deeply with who I am.  I’ve always been the outspoken one, the one who doesn’t care what others think and will do whatever he wants.  Granted, I stay within the confines of the law, I have no interest in being a criminal mastermind like Tony Montana there.  But at the same time, I’ve always gone my own way on things.

I always dressed how I wanted to dress, thought what I wanted, said what I wanted etc.  I never found the need to mince words about things and other people.  I never failed to speak my mind or point out the hypocrisy I see all around me.

Exactly like Tony Montana is doing above.

As all the prissy yuppies point and stare at the bad guy he looks at them with a savage grin and simply states the obvious.  He isn’t much different from them.  He just has the stones to be honest about it.  He doesn’t need to dress it up and make it look pretty so that he can look in the mirror or sleep at night.

He is what he is, and he’s okay with that.

All of his other flaws aside, he has a strikingly high level of self-awareness about who he is and where he wants to go in life.  Had he stayed away from the nose candy, he probably would have been able to keep everything he had earned.

Don't Try this at Home!

Don’t Try this at Home!

The other part I love about this movie, is that despite how terrible of a man he becomes, he still has standards.  I know, it’s a crazy way to think.  This multiple felon and crime lord has standards but it’s true.  I don’t care what any of you say, the most crooked of people still have their own internal code.

Do you know why?  Because they’re still people like you and me.  And here’s Tony’s code: (explicit language and violent content warning)

Tony refuses to kill women and children.  To give the character more depth, you have to understand that Tony knows full well if he doesn’t let that guy blow up the car with the women and children, that his life will be in danger from his business partners.

He kills their assassin anyways.  The man stuck to his guns and he met his final end because of it.

R.I.P. Tony Montana

R.I.P. Tony Montana

If you’re writing a story with a strong tragic hero like Tony Montana, I suggest watching Scarface (1983) and doing a little homework first.

On a final note I have a confession.  I’m going to be honest, this post is half great character post and half challenge:

The next time you see the “bad guy” I want you to think about Tony’s little diatribe above and ask yourself these questions:

Why does this person offend me?

And how much of myself do I see in that person right now?

So what do you think?  Agree?  Disagree?  Think I’m nuts?  Whatever you do think please leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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Featured Image: courtesy of Universal Pictures under fair use.
Post Images: courtesy of Universal Pictures under fair use.

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