THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE CARLITO’S WAY, AS WELL AS SOME IMAGES OF VIOLENCE AND GORE
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.
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:
You don’t mind if I count it?
Ah, it’s all there.
I’ll count it anyway.
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.
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.
You got a bathroom here?
The Dominican shoots a look across the room, to the semi-closed door.
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.
(To the Dominican Kid)
Got a match?
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.
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.
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):
Turn it up, man! I love that song!
The song is “El Watusi”, by Ray Barretto. It can be found in the usual place.
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.
The camera then follows to a close focus on the balls on the table – Brigante’s point of attention.
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.
(a wide shot that, again, establishes how far Carlito will have to travel to get to Guajiro)
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.
Hey, how’s your boss?
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.
You didn’t hear the news, man?
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.
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.
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.
Oh, Quisqueya, man, you gotta check this out.
Carlito’s doin’ one of his trick shots, man.
Guajiro. I ain’t done countin yet.
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.
You want a cold beer, hermano?
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 concentration is not on the trick shot, but on the other elements, his cousin and Quisqueya.
So, how’s your boss?
He’s good, man. I saw him this morning.
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.
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.
Quisqueya, in turn, now makes a nod to the man behind the door.
Looks in the direction of Carlito, the other separate space, with the bathroom door in background, clearly in view.
Back to Quisqueya.
So you didn’t hear the news?
Yo, there’s no beer down here, man.
Sure, way down in the bottom.
Back to the trick shot set-up, back to clockwise motion.
The pool player is in place.
Brigante is ready to go.
A downward angle on Guajiro.
The boundaries are about to fall between the three spaces. The assassin is now in a shot at the end of the bar.
Come on, Quisqueya. Huh, bro, what news?
Quisqueya sees the assassin. Turns back to Guajiro.
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.
Now, with one famous shot, all three spaces – bathroom, pool table, bar – fall away in the mirrored lenses.
Images and screenplay copyright Universal Pictures.