House editor-in-chief Matt Zoller Seitz authors this piece for the Reverse Shot Brian De Palma symposium on the director’s 1993 gangster epic Carlito’s Way.
“Everything about Carlito’s Way (1993) is improbable, starting with the fact that it’s a masterpiece. On paper, it sounds like a glossy Nineties Hollywood version of a cheapo B-picture that, 50 years earlier, would have been labeled “a programmer,” and for that reason, its initial reviews tended to be negative or somewhat dismissively positive (variations on “You’ve seen it all before, but it’s still fun”). My own Dallas Observer review—written by a young man who had a lot more living to do—hewed to this superficial reading; thirteen years and many viewings later, it’s high on the list of verdicts I wish I could take back. (The older you get, the wiser, it seems.) Sure enough, though—as invariably happens with Brian De Palma’s movies—audiences grew to admire and ultimately adore Carlito’s Way. They looked past the film’s surfaces and got lost in its depths; within seven years of its release, Cahiers du Cinéma named it the best film of the Nineties.”