Tag Archives: shootout

Carlito’s Way: Pool Room Scene Part Four

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE CARLITO’S WAY, AS WELL AS SOME IMAGES OF VIOLENCE AND GORE

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR

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.

CARLITO
(shouting)
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.

CARLITO
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.

CARLITO

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 –

BANGBANGBANGBANGBANG!

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.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

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?”

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Puts the empty clip back in, flips the light, then does the re-load.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

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:

CARLITO

I’M RE-LOADED! OKAY! COME IN HERE, MOTHERFUCKERS! COME ON, I’M WAITING FOR YOU!

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

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:

CARLITO

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.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

CARLITO (v.o.)

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.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

CARLITO

YOU THINK YOU’RE FUCKIN BIG-TIME!? YOU’RE GONNA FUCKIN DIE, BIG-TIME!

CARLITO

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.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

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:

CARLITO
(softly)

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.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

In the movie, Brigante leaves the bathroom, and we get a wide shot of the wreckage of the place.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

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.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

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's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

CARLITO (cont’d)

Adios, primo.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito opens the door, and walks into a brilliant white light; he’s been delivered, this time.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

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.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR

Images and screenplay copyright Universal Pictures.

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Carlito’s Way: Pool Room Scene Part Three

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE CARLITO’S WAY, AS WELL AS SOME IMAGES OF VIOLENCE AND GORE

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR

The juke music cuts out, and we get Patrick Doyle’s score come in, heard from now on, of course, at the same volume throughout the room.

Magic time.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

QUISQUEYA

YOUR BOSS IS DEAD AND SO ARE YOU!

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

From now on until the knifeman is killed, we get on the soundtrack at the same volume level, wherever we are in the room, the horrible sound of Guajiro’s scream.

One down, one to go.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

But it might be too late.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Okay, we have the gun. We might just pull this off.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

It`s too late.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Brigante, convicted assassin, hits the knifeman, who is doing something Brigante might have done in the past, from a room’s distance away.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Despite all the action contained in these previous shots, the camera is almost entirely still, which is crucial, because the energy needs to be held before it goes higher as Carlito and Quisqueya go after each other, building up to the close-up of Quisqueya, shot. Here the camera moves, as Quisqueya and Brigante come closer and closer together.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

A zoom for the surprise effect and to stand out in all this movement; the knifeman’s still alive. Brigante is a man of great skill, but he’s getting old, and this shot from a room away was a little off.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Brigante stays focused too long on Quisqueya’s death, looking the other way from the downed assassin:

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Caught by surprise:

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

This time the knifeman definitely gets it, but Brigante is getting old, since he’s lost count of the number of bullets left.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

This whole sequence, with the knifeman instead carrying a gun is all in one short passage in the novel. Brigante, as stated, has a gun from the outset:

That’s what saved me. When Guajiro’s hands went up, I turned right. The shooter bust out the bathroom door and shot Guajiro in the neck, behind the ear. Guajiro spun around draggin’ Quisqueya with him. They got between me and the shooter, who kept shootin’. That’s all I needed. I threw myself backwards and pulled my piece out. I fired at the pool table to my left first. I musta blown it up ’cause splinters was flyin’. Somebody screamed for his mother. I’m rollin’ all over the floor. The shooter, a little fucker, got clear of Guajiro and Quisqueya. I think he’d gone through his five shots (he had a snub nose) because he just stood there. I blew his chest out with two or three quick shots, then still firin’, I scrambled over him into the bathroom.

My back burned as I crawled into a stall. They kept shootin’, but there was no light in the john and they wasn’t about to charge into the dark.

The draft script retains more than a few details of the book, while adding much of the material that, I think, makes the scene so successful. There is no knifeman in the sunglasses or “trick shot”, just a simple cue stick smack. More men are still in the room after the knifeman and the first pool table opponent go down, so you can’t have the duel between Quisqueya and Brigante. In the movie, there’s no diversion from the action by shifting to the women leaving the room. They’ve either left the room, unnoticed, under a pre-arranged signal, or they leave unseen and unheard in the turmoil. The distraction of the shot-up pool table in both the book and draft, is gone in the movie.

AT THE BAR,

Quisqueya still has Guajiro’s hands in his, and it’s getting a little odd. Guajiro looks down at them.

QUISQUEYA
You got the cash with you?

GUAJIRO
Yeah, Hey, come on, what news?

Guajiro tries to pull his hands free, but Quisqueya’s fingers lock around his wrists, hard.

QUISQUEYA
Your boss is dead. So are you.

Everything happens at once. The door to the bathroom flies open –

– Carlito WHAPS the pool cue across the face of the Dominican next to him, stripping him of his gun as they both hit the floor –

– the KNIFE MAN who was hiding in the bathroom flies up behind Guajiro and cuts him twice, once in the back, once across the throat –

– the Girls SCREAM and bolt from the room –

– and Carlito FIRES, SLAMMING a shot into the Knife Man before he can turn, sending him flying against the wall.

Carlito scrambles across the floor, along the length of the pool table, keeping it between himself and –

– the other two Dominicans. He’d positioned them on the other side of the pool table, but they’re moving now, their guns out. Carlito FIRES four shots at them as he crabwalks for the bathroom.

Huge chunks of splintered pool table fly up, somebody SCREAMS and goes down, and a SHOT ZIPS across Carlito’s back, grazing him, cutting a line through his jacket. He reacts to it but continues on, diving over the body of the Knife Man and into the bathroom.

Continued…

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR

Images and screenplay copyright Universal Pictures.

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Carlito’s Way: Pool Room Scene Part Two

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE CARLITO’S WAY, AS WELL AS SOME IMAGES OF VIOLENCE AND GORE

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR

The two men in the pool area are given a stronger visual impression than in the book or draft script, with the second man getting the gun and lighter that were left all with the first player in the draft. One has a cap, sunglasses, a more overtly tough attitude, the other long hair, a vest, also tough, but slightly more relaxed. Rather than there be a central focus on one player among three as we have in the script, the movie evenly divides the focus between the two players.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

A cut to the conversation between Guajiro and Quisqueya; in the script, nothing specific is heard. The framing is partly along the length of the bar, but not the full length as in later shots.

Transcribed from the movie:

QUISQUEYA
You don’t mind if I count it?

GUAJIRO
Ah, it’s all there.

QUISQUEYA
I’ll count it anyway.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito sits down, already knowing something is deeply wrong, and starts looking for a way out. He looks over at the bar, and we get the first shot establishing his distance from his cousin, with the length of the bar between them. Quisqueya catches Carlito’s stare, and his suspicion, gives a look back, and Carlito starts looking for another way out.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

AT THE POOL TABLE,

the game resumes. One of the Dominican’s Girlfriends smiles at Carlito. He smiles back. Her boyfriend doesn’t like it, and puts his arm around her possessively.

Carlito’s eyes are darting around the room, taking in everything. He looks across the way, to a small door that probably leads to a bathroom. The door is just slightly ajar, the light on inside.

CARLITO
You got a bathroom here?

The Dominican shoots a look across the room, to the semi-closed door.

DOMINICAN 1
Yeah, but it don’t work.

In the draft, Brigante, though alert, is far more casual, simply asking about the bathroom after the girl’s flirtation. Where in the script he gets a sense of something wrong only after seeing the vested man’s gun, in the movie he is already looking for ways out.

Carlito finds the Dominican’s response odd. He takes out a cigarette and a pack of matches. He looks over at Guajiro and Quisqueya, who are huddled at the bar, deep in conversation.

He looks back at the Dominican Kid, who avoids his gaze. Carlito thinks. He slips his pack of matches back into his pocket, unnoticed.

CARLITO
(To the Dominican Kid)
Got a match?

DOMINICAN 1
Sure, man.

The Kid pushes back his jacket to reach into his pocket for matches. As he does, Carlito notices the glint of the butt end of a gun tucked into his belt.

One of the three Dominicans playing pool wanders over to the jukebox, drops a dime in, and picks a song.

The girl’s flirtation is an excuse; the moment the pool player is distracted by her, he moves toward the bathroom to deal with whoever is hiding there, but is stopped.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

A quick cut to the bathroom door, again establishing its own separate space, apart from the bar and pool table area, with the sharp line of light.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

The music is now made a lot louder (transcribed from the movie, in the script Quisqueya does not signal directly that he wants the volume up):

QUISQUEYA
Turn it up, man! I love that song!

The song is “El Watusi”, by Ray Barretto. It can be found in the usual place.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

which Carlito reads in one way only – they’re getting ready to kill Brigante and his cousin, with the song as covering noise. This is pushed later in the script, after Carlito has already asked for a light.

Carlito is now looking even more urgently for some way, any way to get out. Where the script gives us the business about almost lighting a cigarette, then pretending to get matches from the second man to see if he has a gun, in the movie Brigante is already almost certain that he sees the man’s gun when he bends slightly to rack.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

The camera then follows to a close focus on the balls on the table – Brigante’s point of attention.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Brigante has started putting his plan together to use the pool shot to get the gun. He goes up to the vested man, asks for a light, sees the gun – okay, it’s confirmed, if he can set up this pool shot, then get this gun, they might have a fighting chance.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

(a wide shot that, again, establishes how far Carlito will have to travel to get to Guajiro)

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Back to the draft:

ACROSS THE ROOM,

Quisqueya laughs hard, at something GUAJIRO says. He takes Guajiro’s hands in his, a friendly, funny gesture.

QUISQUEYA

Hey, how’s your boss?

GUAJIRO

He’s good, man.

AT THE POOL TABLE,

Carlito sneaks a look over to the bathroom door again. There is a shaft of light coming under the bathroom door, just a sliver, but it’s enough so Carlito can see shadows moving inside, a pair of feet. Waiting.

Carlito looks away, stiffening, mind racing. He shoots another look over to the jukebox. The Second Dominican reaches behind it and adjusts something, turning up the volume.

Loud. Like to cover something.

AT THE BAR,

Quisqueya still has Guajiro’s hands in his.

QUISQUEYA

You didn’t hear the news, man?

GUAJIRO

What news?

AT THE POOL TABLE,

beads of sweat have popped out on Carlito’s forehead. Making a decision –

–he steps forward and cuts in front of one of the Dominicans, who is about to shoot.

CARLITO

Hey, you guys wanna see a trick shot?

In the movie, both the “You wanna a cold beer, mano?” and the “trick shot” action start almost at the same time, whereas in the script, the bar action starts earlier, with the hand-holding beginning before the trick shot. So, in the movie, we have two different unknowns unfolding parallel for the viewer – why is there no beer in the freezer? what is Brigante going to do with the trick shot? – along with the mystery that’s already started, of what’s behind the bathroom door – a mystery that can be started earlier since it doesn’t have a build that could go too long – it’s just a simple static recurring element – a bathroom door open by a fraction.

To turn back to the novel, the long tense build-up in the movie and script is only a few lines long.

“Tienes el dinero, hermanito?” asks Quisqueya, his hands holdin’ Guajiro’s shoulders.

“Tienes el material?” is Guajiro’s answer.

“Como no, hermanito,” says Quisqueya, his head back laughin’ but his hands still on Guajiro.

I’m hawkin’ the three guys at the pool table, but all I see is cue sticks. Never no mind, I’m stayin’ with Dan Wesson, nickel-plated.

“Como no, hermanito,” says Guajiro as he grabs Quisqueya’s wrists.

The hand-holding in the script, shoulder-holding in the novel is of course turned into the much better “cold beer” business.

The camera is now low, pointing upwards, following Brigante as he sets up the trick shot. It’s the most motion we’ve had at this point, with almost everything else static set-ups. Quisqueya’s plan is staying still in place, Brigante is rapidly improvising something, his mind going at breakneck speed to get out of this. The camera shoots him from a low angle because though he is very vulnerable right now, he is not weak, he is a top sachem in this game, there are very good reasons for it, and we’re about to see the reasons why in a moment.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Just as Carlito tried to move out of his space earlier, now Guajiro does as well, before he`s pulled back.

Again, the wide shot with the length of the bar.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Transcribed:

GUAJIRO (v.o.)
Oh, Quisqueya, man, you gotta check this out.

GUAJIRO
Carlito’s doin’ one of his trick shots, man.

QUISQUEYA
Guajiro. I ain’t done countin yet.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Now, Quisqueya sets up the routine that will kill Guajiro. We move away from the two shot from along the length of the bar to closer angles.

QUISQUEYA
You want a cold beer, hermano?

QUISQUEYA
Help yourself.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

We got back to the trick shot set-up. Where before Brigante moved clockwise, the camera now follows him as he moves in a counter clockwise motion – this allows for a steady build-up of energy, that you wouldn’t have with the camera cutting back to the same clockwise movement.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito`s concentration is not on the trick shot, but on the other elements, his cousin and Quisqueya.

QUISQUEYA
So, how’s your boss?

GUAJIRO
He’s good, man. I saw him this morning.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

The three spaces before were cut off from each other, but now the bathroom door starts to appear in shots at the end of the bar, behind Guajiro.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

A slow zoom here on Carlito that conveys the sense of building momentum – everything is coming together over here in this intricate plan, now it`s just waiting for the release. Again, Carlito looks over to where Quisqueya is, and again, we have a sense of the separation between the three spaces falling. Before we had shots along the length of the bar, now we follow Carlito’s point of view from the table to Quisqueya with a slow pan over to the bar.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Quisqueya, in turn, now makes a nod to the man behind the door.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Looks in the direction of Carlito, the other separate space, with the bathroom door in background, clearly in view.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

The distance.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Back to Quisqueya.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

QUSIQUEYA
So you didn’t hear the news?

GUAJIRO
What news?

GUAJIRO
Yo, there’s no beer down here, man.

QUISQUEYA
Sure, way down in the bottom.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Back to the trick shot set-up, back to clockwise motion.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

The pool player is in place.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Brigante is ready to go.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

A downward angle on Guajiro.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

The boundaries are about to fall between the three spaces. The assassin is now in a shot at the end of the bar.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

GUAJIRO
Come on, Quisqueya. Huh, bro, what news?

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Quisqueya sees the assassin. Turns back to Guajiro.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

A type of framing that happens again and again in De Palma movies. The protagonist does not see what the audience clearly sees in the background, and must helplessly watch while the action unfolds. This happens both in Blow Out after the car goes into the river and in Casualties of War after the VC attack.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Now, with one famous shot, all three spaces – bathroom, pool table, bar – fall away in the mirrored lenses.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Continued…

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR

Images and screenplay copyright Universal Pictures.

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Carlito’s Way: Pool Room Scene Part One

THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE CARLITO’S WAY, AS WELL AS SOME IMAGES OF VIOLENCE AND GORE

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR

An attempt to think through the structure of one of the best movie action scenes ever staged – the pool room shoot-out in Carlito’s Way, looking at what takes place in the scene itself, but also how it’s laid out in the novel on which it’s based, After Hours by Edwin Torres, as well as the draft screenplay by David Koepp.

First, Carlito’s Way mirrors Brian De Palma’s earlier movie Scarface, and this scene has a function similar to that of the infamous chainsaw sequence in that film – it establishes details of the character very succinctly, without dialogue, almost entirely through action. The Scarface chainsaw scene conveys Tony Montana’s cunning (telling his friends to wait, then storm the apartment if he’s not out at an appointed time), tenacity (able to endure the possibility that he will be killed with a chainsaw without giving anything away), and temper (killing a man out in the street in broad daylight for what he’s done). Carlito Brigante is a man of different qualities – a repentant man, someone of quickness, agility, alertness, adeptness, who is both from a rough, violent background, but also now alienated and uncomfortable with it. There is a life that he is very good at, but he also knows that it is a life of young, ruthless men; he is no longer young and has lost his desire to be ruthless. His later, fatal, mistake is that he can be in this life but not fully share the malevolence to survive it. It is a mistake similar to that of David Kleinfeld, who thinks you can step into and out of the gangster’s life, rather than seeing how it engulfs you, and that you must always be on your guard, always have the readiness and skills to kill. Brigante thinks he can step back and forth between the repentant and unrepentant life – that he can both humiliate a fellow gangster like Benny Blanco, but also show him mercy – as no gangster would – and this is a grave error.

The dialogue in the Rolando Rivas meet scene right before the car ride to the dealer’s place is this:

ROLANDO
You serious?

CARLITO
I’m serious. That’s right. I’m out. I quit.

ROLANDO
So, mi monina Carlito Brigante got religon?

CARLITO
That’s right. I’m studying to be a priest.

Brigante’s quote is not completely facetious – he’s trying to lead a better, repentant life.

Back to the scene. In the book, Brigante is not this noble figure. He is not roped along to go into this drug deal, but goes because he needs money. Importantly, Guajiro is not his cousin, but a veteran of many years street experience, not some fresh faced kid. The tone of the book is something like that of a Chester Himes novel or Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets, while in the movie the action has a fantastic quality, closer to that of the train station sequence in De Palma’s The Untouchables, but still credible – gunfights are more elegantly choreographed than in real life, but guns run out bullets, and good people die. The book and movie still share much, such as details of setting.

Me, like a chump, right away I’m doing favors. This guy, Guajiro, asked me to ride shotgun on a coke deal on 100th Street, West Side. As a rule I don’t trust Cubans, but Guajiro grew up with the Barrio crowd, one of the boys, so I went along with him. Light backup. Just a favor. We pulled east on Broadway into the block. Skank street. Backroom of a barber shop, color it dingy, like the greasy, nappy-headed Dominicans around the miniature pool table. There was four of them. Right away I checked out the windows with bars, a bathroom door, and one bulb overhead. Didn’t go for it nohow. Shows to go you, when a man of “tabla” like Guajiro got to score behind a scene like this. Them’s the conditions we face in these hard times.

One small crucial change in detail – the windows in the movie’s pool room are gone. We move from the open air of the block party, the meeting at the bodega, the car ride, outside the barber shop, the smaller space of the barber shop, then the claustrophobia of the pool room, where there’s no outside light. The pool room and bathroom are studio sets, where the previous are location shots. The light palette is reduced, there’s a proper sense of restriction and immobility. The color theme in the pool room is red, for obvious reasons – though it’s not as dominant as it could be. This is not a room bathed in red light, but a background of red brick and wood. There is a very, very strong background signal of things about to go wrong, but it is a background signal.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

A small detail – there are three men visible in the movie, four in the book. A smaller, but more important one – the smoke rising from the ashtrays on the counter and the pool table, that we see from the beginning, that rises during the deal, and continues to rise in the violent aftermath, after three men are gone. A stream of water keeps rippling, even after all those in the surrounding village have passed away.

Right back to where things continue in the book, with the meeting of Guajiro and the dealer, Quisqueya.

“Hola Quisqueya,” says Guajiro.

Big, gap-toothed smile of surprise, like we wasn’t clocked before we came in the door, comes up from the pool table.

“Guajiro, mi hermano,” Quisqueya says loud, with both arms extended. They embraced like they just come back from a war. Mi parna, mi hermano, mi socio, etc. Meanwhile the other three guys never took their eyes off the table. So.

When I get a message like that, my aerial goes up. Could hear the chalk dust landin’ on the floor. A .357 Dan Wesson Magnum in an elastic band around my crotch said, Ready, Jack.

An important, and, I think, essential change. In the book, Brigante carries a gun. In the script and movie, he is without one. This makes character sense, since he is now a repentant man, trying to leave that life behind, but also is incredibly effective in demonstrating his skills at getting out of a situation like this. Another: Brigante’s narration drops out the moment we are in the pool room, then comes back when the shooting’s over. His mind, the moment it hits the pool room is working intuitively, tactically, like a preyed on animal – he doesn’t have time to describe or convey anything to the reader. This is another effective difference – the novel, by having Brigante do this scene in first-person makes him come across as a tale-teller, rather than the spare piece of lethal work he needs to be here.

From the draft:

The back room of the barber shop is a small, dingy place, one bulb, barred windows painted black, with a door to a bathroom. THREE DOMINICANS, eighteen or nineteen years old, good-looking, expensively dressed, are playing pool with TWO NEIGHBOURHOOD GIRLS, a little younger, sexy.

CARLITO and GUAJIRO come in. Carlito looks around at the dingy surroundings and smiles to himself, like a professional sizing up minor leaguers.

They all look up. Guajiro turns to QUISQUEYA, also Dominican, a ltitle older than the other three.

GUAJIRO

Hola Quisqueya!

QUISQUEYA

Quajiro, hermanito!

They meet and embrace, all smiles — until Quisqueya’s eyes fall on Carlito. He regards him suspiciously. (The scene is in Spanish, which is subtitled.)

QUISQUEYA (cont’d)

Who’s this?

GUAJIRO
(proudly)

My cousin, Carlito Brigante. You heard of Carlito, right?

Quisqueya looks at the other Dominicans and they shake their heads.

QUISQUEYA

What you need him for?

Carlito smiles and shows he has no weapon.

CARLITO
Esta bien, okay? Todo bien. Just came along for the ride.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

In the final script, Brigante is given a better line (“Tranquilo, Tranquilo”), but more importantly for this part of the scene, Quisqueya stays entirely out of the shot until after Brigante’s line, with us simply hearing his voice as the characters address him. This is his place, he controls it, those at the pool table are in his command, Carlito and Guajiro are his potential victims, and what takes place next is entirely because of his decisions. When we finally see him, his look is appropriately menacing, a role played to a T by the excellent late actor Rick Aviles.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Also note – in the script, as in the novel, there are still four visible men in the scene (Quisqueya and the two at the table), instead of three in the final movie.

We go back to the draft script.

GUAJIRO
Come on, you know Carlito, man. He used to be partners with Rolando Rivas. Just got outta Lewisburg.

Now their eyes light up with recognition.

QUISQUEYA
Oh, Carlito! Yeah, sure, I heard of you, man! You used to run skag with Rolando, right?

CARLITO
Yeah, little bit.

DOMINICAN 1
“Little bit!” “Little bit” – thass a good one! Joo guys were the fockin’ kings, man!

It is here in the movie that Carlito sees the bathroom door with the light on, a telltale movement in the door, and knows already that something is wrong. He takes off his sunglasses – he’ll need to be able to see everything in the room very clearly for what happens next. His move echos Rolando’s removing his sunglasses a few scenes back:

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

ROLANDO

Everyone is dead. But you knew all this.

CARLITO

No, I didn’t know that.

Rolando takes off his sunglasses and stares at Carlito.

ROLANDO

Let’s speak the truth between us. (etc.)

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito makes the gesture of his hands out of his coat and into the pockets of his pants – perhaps in another time and place, he would have had a gun, or a knife hidden somewhere, but this is now just a nervous gesture. He is trying for the straight and narrow path now, and he is weaponless.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

We now go from a group shot with Quisqueya to the side, shot from behind, his face at angle, his expression barely visible,

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

QUISQUEYA
Hermanos, take care of Carlito.

creating a suitable impact for the jump to the deep close-up,

QUISQUEYA (CONT’D)
We gotta do some business.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

which re-states his menace and power – he is a fearsome figure, this is his place, with both Carlito and his cousin in the palm of his fist.

Significantly, it is after this close-up that the movie establishes two very distinct spaces, the pool table area, and the end of the bar. The third space, the bathroom, has already been established with the shot of the lit up door. Brigante knows that it’s crucial for he and Guajiro to be in the same space, and when Guajiro walks away with Quisqueya, he knows it is a mistake.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

Quisqueya and Guajiro walk away. An important detail: light from the bathroom is not diffuse, but a straight angled line to the bar. This entire scene, I believe, is given far greater christian overtones than in the book or draft script, and the bathroom light is almost like a mystic sign pointing to where death will fall.

Carlito's Way Pool Room Scene

From now on, there will be an emphasis on the division of the two spaces. Music will be heard louder in the pool room than at the bar. Also, the distance from the pool table to the end of the bar will be made clear in shot after shot. Guajiro and Quisqueya will be shot always along the length of the bar, until the “wanna a cold beer, hermano?” business starts. Throughout the scene, we are shown the pool table from the distance at the end of the bar. Both Guajiro and Carlito try to leave their respective space. First Carlito will attempt to move from the pool table space to see what’s in the bathroom, then Guajiro will try to move from the bar space to the pool table; had they been able to do so, both might have left the room alive – but in both cases they are stopped.

Continued…

PART ONE PART TWO PART THREE PART FOUR

Images and screenplay copyright Universal Pictures.

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