Movie Review: Al Pacino Shines in "Scalito's Way"

New York, January 22, 2006 -- Al Pacino brings his epic screen presence to another gritty drama with this fall's release of Brian de Palma's Scalito's Way, a bleak and riveting film-noir post-prequel/remake slotted between a recent prequel, After Hours, and the original 1993 film masterpiece, Carlito's Way, both based on the books by Judge Edwin Torres.

In Scalito's Way, Pacino plays a mild-mannered judge who tries to play it straight after doing time on the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, but who is unable to escape the ghosts of his past as he is relentlessly drawn by forces beyond his control or understanding back into a life of crime, anti-constitutional judicial activism and moral degradation on the United States Supreme Court.

Pacino's character, circuit court judge Samuel A. Alito, Jr., nicknamed "Scalito", is a tough, pull-no-punches ex-con with a mild, unassuming presence who's served hard time but wants to renew his life and buy himself a second chance by playing it straight. His efforts are challenged, however, by his former gangland associate and mentor Antonin Scalia, a dizzy, drug-addled neo-conservative Supreme Court justice who mocks Scalito's attempts to walk the high road. Scalia's cruel and manipulative jibes are brought to life by such moments of raw dialogue as:

"Yo, Scalito, what's with the long face? I seen you vote straight up on Casey, so they knife you in the gut, you take one for the good guys, eh? We wanna see you walk tall like a brother of mine, bambino. You got the straight edge, moxie, it's in ya – don't you got no mean streak? Go soft vermicelli on your paisanos, they squash you like a lump a mozzarella."

Scalito, who is seeking a form of moral redemption from his wicked past of straight-line conservative activist voting, culminating in a radical dissenting vote in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey in which Scalito tries to redefine women as the property of their husbands, gradually breaks down under the continued pressure from Scalia and other members of the underground gang.

Despite all his efforts, Scalito finds himself drawn further and further into the darkness. Out of loyalty to his mentor Scalia, he agrees to join the maverick justice on a night-time raid to "bust a cap on the Bill of Rights", during which Scalito becomes inextricably involved in the wholesale gutting of the Constitution.

SCALIA: "Yo, Scalito, gimme a hand here – Pow! goodbye First Amendment. Pow! goodbye establishment clause."
SCALITO: "Yo, Antonin, I dunno about this. It don't feel right."
SCALIA: "Shaddup, ya pussy. Pow! Gimme them chains over there. Now help me trow this fourteenth amendment over the side."

While Scalito sinks ever lower, caught in a web of evil he himself has spun, he still retains the naive and desperate hope that he will somehow succeed on his own path of redemption. The movie reaches its most poignant moment during the climactic monochromatic climax, when Scalito, who has impaled himself on his own gavel to prevent himself from doing any further harm to the country, reflects on his sordid past and dreams of what could have been, and what will never be, as the light slowly fades from his eyes and from the curtain.

A deeply powerful, emotionally gripping film with an outstanding performance by Al Pacino, Scalito's Way is a tale that haunts and torments even as it fills and inspires with the secure and uplifting knowledge that, for everyone, there is still room for hope – for hope, in a world without Scalito.

By Ion Zwitter, Avant News Editor

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