The Two Gangster Films:Scarface, a 1932 gangster film contains both similarities and difference to the 1990 gangster film Miller's Crossing. The main similarities include their settings, the struggle for power, and the dynamic of family. Some of the main differences include: the protagonists want, the theme of the films, and role of government in society.
Scarface takes place in Chicago and Miller's Crossing takes place in some sort of city (which is undefined). The city-setting of these films allows us as the audience to feel like we are getting the inside scoop of everything that is happening. Rather than being outsiders to the situations and events as they are unfolding, we are a part of them. The fast-passed nature of this setting allows for an added feeling of intensity. Word can spread quickly, and there never seems it be a place or chance to hide.
Struggle for power:
In both films most characters have become corrupt due to their desire for power/money. Nobody can be trusted because of this. Rather than prioritizing morals over power, characters in both Scarface and Miller's Crossing do what ever they have to do in order to climb the power ladder. The struggle is that there is no one who can be trusted. Everyone is running off of self-interest. Although in both films there is at least one character who says something along the lines of "my friendships with others are important" it can be realized that this statement falls flat, because there are no true friendships.
Dynamic of family:
In Scarface Tony will do anything to protect his sister. As we gather throughout the film, his relationship to his sister is actually quite close... too close! He has some incestuous feelings towards her. None-the-less, the only human connection he has that is strong and true is the one he has with his sister. In Miller's Crossing we see a similar sort of dynamic between Verna and Bernie. Verna wants to make sure that her brother is safe. Furthermore, a clear parallel between both the films is that while having a conversation with Bernie, Tom discovers that they have had some sort of incestuous encounters...
In Scarface Tony finds himself becoming more and more corrupt as he strives to climb the power ladder for riches. In Miller's crossing we find ourselves examining a more intricate and complicated protagonist. By the end of the film Tom doesn't seem to of wanted more power, but rather, it seems as though he is just trying to play the game, and play it well. This difference among protagonists is a big one. The only redeeming quality about Tony is his love towards Cesca, but, unfortunately, that is his sister.... Because Tom isn't out to gain ultimate control, there is something more mysterious about his character. It is harder to get a handle on his motivs, thus it is harder to discern whether or not Tom is really a bad guy.
Theme of film:
Reflecting the protagonist wants of both films, the themes additionally differ: Scarface reflects the turmoil of society of the time, showcasing that the corruption for power and money will result in an inevitably poor outcome. In Miller's Crossing the story reflects a theme of how there is no black and white in regards to an individual. Scarface doesn't really present the redeeming qualities in the characters. For instance, there is nothing that would of stopped Tony from killing Cesca's lover, even though he happens to be one of his "closest friends." But in Miller's Crossing we see how Tom stays on the side of Leo throughout the film- he never actually turns on him. This loyalty of Tom showcases how there is no black and white to the individuals. Although one could easily say he is immoral, there are aspects of him that are good.
Role of government:
In Scarface the presence of cops works as a device to show the "good guys." In the end of the film they kill Tony, which because of Tony's immorality, is the just sort of thing to do. In Miller's Crossing the presence of cops / government officials serves a different role: because the government/cops don't do much to oppose the gangsters (aka: the bad guys) they blur with the gangsters. Now, rather than having an antagonist force of upholding justice, Miller's Crossing presents the idea that everyone in society blurs together: no one can really be distinguished as completely bad or completely good.
So overall both of these films showcase similarities and differences, but in the end they are both just great examples of the gangster film genre. If you are interested in a more riveting film I would suggest watching Miller's Crossing. I wasn't much of a fan of Scarface... but maybe you will be? Check them both out and you decide!