Would a new ‘Scarface’ be an ideal update on a classic tale of the American Dream if it ever sees the light of day?
When done right, the American Dream is an ever-present, if also ever-evolving conceit in film, explicating a certain lust for life that humanity tries and fails to attain. Scarface — both the 1932 and 1983 versions — tells a story about such a quest to better one’s circumstances through the lens of immigration. Both films are irreplaceable in the mob genre.
Thus, the fact that Hollywood wants to remake Scarface again so badly is absolutely unsurprising. But in all fairness, a rebooted Scarface makes sense, especially given the timeliness of immigration narratives at the moment. A modernized version could probably really work with the right people on board.
So is Antoine Fuqua that perfect person to bring a new version of Scarface to life? Universal certainly thought so back in 2016, and now again over a year later as the film takes shape (well honestly, it’s been taking shape since 2011). Deadline reports that Fuqua met with studio executives last week to hash out the film, and he could very well end up with his name on the director’s chair for the project once more.
Suicide Squad‘s David Ayer had stepped in to direct Scarface after Fuqua left the first time due to scheduling issues. Now, with Ayer leaving under the same circumstances and the film becoming an undated mystery after having been previously set for an August 10, 2018, release, the new Scarface continues to exist in limbo. Even its star, Diego Luna (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), could very well leave the project, especially now that he is set to lead Season 4 of Narcos. Judging by Luna’s chameleonic filmography, it’s rather unlikely that he would concede to be in two cartel-related projects, especially ones that are so high-profile and so close to one another in development. He wouldn’t need to anyway.
The Scarface reboot has so many of the right fixings so far — including a Joel and Ethan Coen script to work off of — but it seems perennially stuck in development hell. Getting Luna on board early last year seemed like just the right push the film needed to be fast-tracked after the success of Rogue One, but the movie still fizzled out. Fuqua’s return could be more of an assured bet for Universal because they were keen on his vision in the past, and many of his films have dealt with criminal underworlds and the supposed dichotomy of good and evil within them.
Fuqua has attempted to lend nuance to his films, but especially in his more recent work, the focus on sleek action scenes and stylized violence can’t balance out the thin characterization found in the scripts he directs. This makes his movies a lot colder than they should be. For instance, The Magnificent Seven somewhat discusses the conundrum of violence and the kind of man who gets himself into the thick of it, but all the characters barely evolve past their designated roles in the group. Southpaw actually has moments of pathos, but it ultimately fails to be anything but a shallow depiction of fallen heroes who build themselves back up, as it never takes its characters to much depth.
The most solid draw of Fuqua taking up the mantle of director on Scarface again would be the cast; his movies work so much better because of the stellar people that star in them. Fuqua directed Denzel Washington to his second Oscar, in Training Day, and Southpaw and The Magnificent Seven had such charismatic actors on board that it’s impossible to not root for their respective protagonists even if the films are more lackluster. So even if Luna officially drops out of Scarface, there’s still a confidence that the lead role will be in good hands.
Looking at how Scarface has developed over the past year, Ayer wouldn’t have inspired a lot of faith as director after Suicide Squad (even though End of Watch is a stellar police drama). Fuqua — who certainly has appeal among critics and audiences — is a preferable and an absolutely fine choice… but just fine. News of his return doesn’t feel particularly earth-shattering and that’s disappointing for a remake of such a classic property.