Carlito's Way (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Nov 03, 2023
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Carlito's Way (4K UHD Review)


Brian De Palma

Release Date(s)

1993 (September 26, 2023)


Universal Pictures (Arrow Video)
  • Film/Program Grade: B+
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: A-

Carlito's Way (4K UHD)



By 1993, Brian De Palma had three films in a row that either didn’t do well financially (Casualties of War), were legendarily messy productions (The Bonfire of the Vanities), or were mangled by the studio that released them (Raising Cain). It’s easy to understand his frustrations, but he needed a commercial hit to stay in the game, or at least something that would resonate. This came by way of Carlito’s Way, which was based upon the novels Carlito’s Way and After Hours by Edwin Torres. The resulting film was endlessly compared to De Palma’s earlier film Scarface, but it managed to receive some decent critical notice and minor box office success.

Carlito Brigante (Pacino) has been newly-released from prison with the help of his sleazy personal attorney and close friend Dave Kleinfeld (Sean Penn), managing to slip out of the legal system after thirty years based upon a technicality. With a new lease on life, Carlito vows to go straight and end his criminal ways, hoping to raise enough money at his ill-gotten nightclub to retire for good. But escaping a life of organized crime can be a tricky business, and Carlito finds himself the target of other gangsters, as well as the police who suspect him of still being up to no good. Meanwhile, he’s also attempting to rekindle his previous relationship with Gail (Penelope Anne Miller), a dancer by day and stripper by night. But his main challenge lies in navigating and surviving the criminal underworld that’s constantly snapping at his heels without sinking himself back into it.

Filled to the brim with excellent performances, Carlito’s Way only further established Al Pacino as a force to be reckoned with (as well as Scent of a Woman, released the same year), but it also highlighted an exceptional cast giving it their all, including relative newcomer John Leguizamo, as well as veterans Sean Penn, Penelope Anne Miller, and Luis Guzman. There’s even a small role for Viggo Mortensen to shine in. As for Brian De Palma, Carlito’s Way didn’t build any houses for him to occupy, but it didn’t burn any down either... his success three years later with the first Mission: Impossible would certainly do that. Yet in the years since its release, Carlito’s Way has become even more appreciated than it was during its original release, many citing it as one of De Palma’s best. So much so that a straight-to-video prequel, Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power, was released in 2005, despite almost no involvement from the original cast or crew. But unlike the original, it has, more or less, been forgotten.

Carlito’s Way was shot by cinematographer Stephen H. Burum on 35 mm film using Panavision Panaflex cameras and Panavision lenses, finished photochemically, and presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Arrow Video brings the film to UHD for a second time (following Universal’s release), sourced from a 2021 4K Digital Intermediate supplied by NBC/Universal, which was created from the original camera negative, and graded for High Dynamic Range in HDR10 only. Though one would assume that it’s the exact same presentation, there are some differences. The aspect ratio is slightly more narrow and it’s definitely a different encode. Detail was slightly more splotchy on the previous UHD, while Arrow’s release tightens things up a bit. Outside of that, there aren’t any major differences. Both releases are BD-100 discs with extremely high bitrates, so the presentations have plenty of room to breathe. The grain structure of the Arrow disc is finely-tuned and everything appears crisp and film-like. Color and contrast are identical, with deep blacks and rich detail in the palette thanks to the HDR grade, particularly during the nightclub scenes where there’s a larger variety of visual detail. Hues aren’t especially striking, but they look accurate to their source without appearing oversaturated. Most viewers might not even notice any differences without going over both discs with a fine-toothed comb. Some of the darker and more textured scenes might have benefited from a Dolby Vision pass, but in any case, it’s still a lovely presentation, and should satisfy most viewers.

Audio is included in English DTS:X (on the UHD only), as well as English 5.1 and 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio with optional subtitles in English SDH. The film was theatrically released in Dolby Stereo and DTS, meaning that the audio selections presented here best represent the various theatrical experiences (at home, at least). The DTS:X and 5.1 track are similar in many ways in terms of staging, but the DTS:X track has the edge in terms of space as it’s a little wider. The film’s audio isn’t necessarily built for an active multi-channel experience since it’s primarily dialogue-driven, but ambient activity and score are given careful attention. The two channel option is a fold-down and will certainly please those without surround sound capabilities. In all cases, dialogue is up front and in charge, fully discernible among the various elements. Some may decry not having a Dolby Atmos option, but the DTS:X track more than makes up for it.

Carlito’s Way on 4K Ultra HD sits in a black amaray case alongside a 1080p Blu-ray with seven double-sided, postcard-sized lobby card reproductions, as well as a double-sided insert featuring new artwork by Obviously Creative and the original theatrical artwork on the reverse. Also included is a double-sided poster featuring the same artwork options and a 60-page booklet containing cast and crew information, the essay Going Straight, Carlito’s Way by Barry Forshaw, the original production notes, restoration information, and production credits. The following extras are included on each disc:


  • Audio Commentary with Matt Zoller Seitz
  • Select Scene Commentary with Dr. Douglas Keesey


  • Audio Commentary with Matt Zoller Seitz
  • Select Scene Commentary with Dr. Douglas Keesey
  • Interviews:
    • Carlito & the Judge (HD – 12:23)
    • Cutting Carlito’s Way (HD – 17:22)
    • De Palma on Carlito’s Way (SD – 5:28)
  • De Palma’s Way (HD – 17:33)
  • All the Stitches in the World: The Locations of Carlito’s Way (HD – 2:59)
  • The Making of Carlito’s Way (SD – 34:36)
  • Deleted Scenes (Upscaled SD – 9 in all – 8:18)
  • Original Promotional Featurette (Upscaled SD – 5:13)
  • Trailers:
    • Teaser Trailer (HD – 1:46)
    • Theatrical Trailer (HD – 2:46)
  • Image Gallery (HD – 270 in all)

Author and film critic Matt Zoller Seitz occupies a running audio commentary while watching the film, highlighting many aspects of it as he goes along, but also providing contextual information about the production and the time in which it was made. The other commentary features Dr. Douglas Keesey, author of the book Brian De Palma’s Split-Screen: A Life in Film. After annoyingly reminding us to watch the film first before listening to his commentary (it’s 2023, we get it), he offers his thoughts on selected scenes from the film, rather than the entirety of it. His analyses are valuable, so it’s a shame that he isn’t included on the entire track.

Carlito & the Judge speaks to author Edwin Torres about his books and their adaptation, Cutting Carlito’s Way talks with editors Bill Pankow and Kristina Boden, and De Palma on Carlito’s Way is a brief archival interview with the director. De Palma’s Way is a very enthusiastic appreciation of the film by critic David Edelstein. All the Stitches in the World is a filming locations tour with side-by-side comparisons that include latitude and longitude coordinates. The Making of Carlito’s Way is a documentary produced for the DVD release by Laurent Bouzereau, featuring Martin Bregman, Edwin Torres, Brian De Palma, Al Pacino, and Bill Pankow. Also included a series of nine deleted scenes, the Original Promotional Featurette, the film’s teaser and theatrical trailers, and an Image Gallery containing 270 stills of production photos, behind-the-scenes photos, and press materials.

In some ways, Carlito’s Way is one of De Palma’s less celebrated films, only because of the popularity of films like Carrie and Scarface, which is certainly not bad company to be in. Arrow Video provides a definitive home video package for the film that allows many who might’ve overlooked it a chance to re-evaluate it. Even for that alone, it’s a highly recommended disc.

- Tim Salmons

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