THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE CARLITO’S WAY, AS WELL AS SOME IMAGES OF VIOLENCE AND GORE
Now Brigante is in the bathroom, with a gun and an empty clip, his enemies outside, possibly the scene that’s most important in the movie, and serves as the basis for the movie’s poster art.
The essence of the scene and its aftermath are in the original novel:
“Maricones! I`m all reloaded. Come on in,” I shouted.
Zilch I had reloaded. I was out of bullets. Everything got quiet. Could hear a rat piss on cotton. I’m streched out on piss and cold tiles.
I yelled again, “Mother fuckers, get ready. we all gonna die here, ’cause I’m comin’ out. Se va’ joder to’el mundo!”
Bang. They blew the lights out, then a stampede of feet makin’ for the outside door. All clear. I felt a sting across my back like I’d been whipped. The bulls will be here, make your move. I crawled out on all fours. Wait awhile. Guajiro brought a bundle with him. Ain’t gonna do him no good. Lit a match. Inner suit pocket. Okay. Let’s go. Seventeen big ones. This is typical. Guajiro goes down to close a deal – wham, he gets offed. Ain’t no more racketeers, just a bunch of muggers rippin’ each othe off. I don’t need this. The street is too hot (esta que chilla!). Time to get off, Carlito, while you still upright.
A digression: many of the best lines in the novel even if not used in their original context, were brought into the movie – I’m sorry that “could hear a rat piss on cotton” wasn’t one of them.
So, the central quality of the scene is that Brigante is out of bullets and now must use only his voice to intimidate those outside that he’s somehow reloaded the gun, and will kill them when he goes back outside.
The draft screenplay sticks close to the original novel:
IN THE BATHROOM,
Carlito kills the light and scrambles across the floor, into a stall.
A few more SHOTS are fired in the general direction of the bathroom, but nobody seems about ready to charge into the darkened room.
Carlito flips open the gun he got from the Dominican and dumps the spent shell casings, which PING across the tile floor.
You little shits! You little fuckin’ shits! I’m reloaded, come on in and get me!
He looks down at the gun. The cylinder is still empty. He flips it shut as noisily as possible and closes his eyes.
Come on, you little fucks!
OUT IN THE MAIN ROOM,
the remaining Dominicans, who have taken cover, look at each other, wide-eyed, and now they really do look like kids. None of them seems particularly eager to charge the bathroom.
IN THE BATHROOM,
Carlito touches his back, comes up with blood on his hand.
You don’t wanna come in, mother fuckers? Then I’m comin’ out! Get ready. ’cause you all gonna die here!
IN THE MAIN ROOM,
the Dominicans are scared shitless. Quisqueya turns, aims his gun at the single light and –
He shatters the light, sending the room into blackness. Under cover of the dark, they all race out the door and out through the barber shop.
The final movie reduces these elements and moves the focus entirely on Brigante. The bathroom starts off with an overhead shot of Brigante, as he looks desperately, futilely, up, as if for a deliverance.
He is as vulnerable now as when he was at the pool table, but now he holds even fewer cards and is entirely at a dead end. What makes this the most important scene in the movie is that it embodies exactly what Brigante’s condition is throughout the movie – a man who no longer wants to be a tough guy, who must assume a tough guy pose that he no longer believes or likes in order to survive, and that his life depends on people continuing to believe this pose. The pool room sequence is a precursor of what happens in the Grand Central shoot-out sequence, where he will once again fall into trouble by doing a favour, will use his extraordinary skills to extract himself, but the next time he won’t be able to escape the place his choices have brought him to, because the next time, Pachanga and Benny Blanco will no longer believe he’s still a gangster.
He knows he’s in trouble. Takes the clip out, and just the way he holds it and the gun, expresses “now what do I do?”
Puts the empty clip back in, flips the light, then does the re-load.
His lines are entirely uninterrupted by the re-load or touching his wound actions as they are in the script. All the actions lie with him, his opponents don’t shoot a light or move. Their fear is shown by not moving.
From now on, all of Brigante’s dialogue is transcribed from the movie:
I’M RE-LOADED! OKAY! COME IN HERE, MOTHERFUCKERS! COME ON, I’M WAITING FOR YOU!
Brigante says his lines with his face entirely in shadow, and it`s only when he shifts into the light that we see he’s very scared, and that it’s taking every thing he has to put on this act. He looks up briefly like he’s making a silent prayer, then continues:
OKAY! YOU AIN’T COMIN’ IN?
We see the first man from the pool table, lying on the floor, with his sunglasses now off. His earlier appearance now seems as much a pose as Carlito’s, because he seems very frail and scared.
THEN I’M COMIN’ OUT! YOU UP AGAINST IT NOW, MOTHERFUCKERS! I’M GONNA BLOW YOUR FUCKIN BRAINS OUT!
Then, we return to Brigante up against the wall, shouting, not out the door, but upwards, entirely acting, hoping this will work. He now delivers the classic lines.
YOU THINK YOU’RE FUCKIN BIG-TIME!? YOU’RE GONNA FUCKIN DIE, BIG-TIME!
YOU READY!? HERE COME THE PAIN!
Despite the bravado in these lines, and Brigante throwing open the door like he’s an invading army, he moves with the gun hesitantly, jerkily, knowing that if anyone out there has a piece, he’s a dead man.
From the draft:
Carlito edges out the door, waving his empty weapon here and there frantically.
Only when he’s a few feet out does he relax. The two pool players stay still.
The draft script:
Oh, Jesus. Jesus Christ. Fuckin’ look at you! You said they were friends, God damn you, there ain’t no friends in this shit business!
A SOUND from the street startles him. He looks up, realizing he’s still not safe here. He starts to get up, then turns back to Guajiro, reluctantly.
He reaches into Guajiro’s inside jacket pocket and pulls out the wad of bills.
In the movie, Brigante leaves the bathroom, and we get a wide shot of the wreckage of the place.
Carlito and Guajiro, who were in separate spaces after Guajiro left for the bar area, are now connected in one fluid camera movement, from the cousin’s corpse to the cousin giving blessing.
Added: Brigante making the sign of the cross over Guajiro. No “god damn you”, which would be a desecration. The money is not taken from the body, which would be a desecration, but from the counter.
The next shot is, again, with the length of the bar on the side, showing the small distance needed to travel that made the difference between life and death. Carlito stares at that, then turns to look at the distance between the bar and the bathroom, but there’s no point in dwelling on calculations of how things might have come out different: his cousin is dead, and the cops are on the way.
Carlito opens the door, and walks into a brilliant white light; he’s been delivered, this time.
A small, succinct gesture caps this sequence. Carlito wipes the handle of the gun, and tosses it away, all in one seamless movement. The assurance and calm say that he has done this many times before. Though he very much wants to leave it, he’s still very good at the criminal life, which is why he’ll believe he’ll always have the gifts to survive traps like this one, an illusion that’ll finally get him killed.
Images and screenplay copyright Universal Pictures.