Carlito (Charlie) Brigante (Al Pacino) from Carlito’s Way

"The following is a guest review.  The review and photos do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Michael Crawford or Michael's Review of the Week, and are the opinion and work of the guest author."
A big thank you as always to our master of ceremonies Mike Crawford, ‘Captain Toy’ himself!

Carlitito’s Way (1993) marked the second collaboration of Brian De Palma and Al Pacino, who had previously worked together on the seminal gangster flick Scarface (1983), which was of course the subject matter for Blitzway’s first figural release from back in the July of 2011. Meaning there is a rather elegant symmetry going on here. It’s testament to how hard it can be for a new company to put a high end figure out, that it has taken a full 18 months for us to get this follow up. Blitzway also recently announced that they would be bringing out statues of the Hong Kong martial arts legend Bruce Lee, and the sculptor at work would be none other than Arnie Kim (it really seems that where he goes the Bruce Lee license follows, or at least part of it!).

However, Arnies first job for Blitzway is Carlito Brigante, the former drug kingpin who after serving five years of a 30 year stretch (released on a technicality dreamed up by his coke head lawyer) decides to turn his life around and go straight. But the movie, like the books it is based on, tell the story of just how hard it can be for a man to escape his past. With the best of intentions, the lifestyle he leads means he constantly mixes with the worst kind of people, and circumstances conspire to keep him trapped in the seedy world he helped create. Ultimately he is a man that deserves his fate!

I like the movie, always have, but I certainly never considered it quite the classic that many people do. It’s a great character study, and though Shakespearean in its scope (much like Scarface) it lacks the high-octane drama of its predecessor and seems to plod, where Scareface sprinted!

However, although it wouldn’t make my top 50 movies, for many it often seems to make their top 5.  And its popularity is played testament to by the fact this is the second time this figure has been made. The first was an uber limited release from KoJun in the days before he joined the Hot Toys team. 






















You can see some images of it here and the fact that KoJun also did a rather cool job of Pacino in Heat would lead one to believe that the diminutive Italian American has quite a following in Korea and China. But enough pontificating, lets take a long hard look at this figure, and see if Blitzway are still as worthy of a seat at the top table as they seemed after the Scarface release?

Packaging - ****

For their first release Blitzway managed to pull off a very classy piece of packaging and they have managed to continue the trend here. The front shows the iconic silhouette image used on the movie poster and DVD sleeve. It is held shut by a magnetic panel on the right hand side that unwinds to show a printed glossy plastic sheet announcing the 25th anniversary of the movie. Beneath this is a foam sheet that lifts off to show the fully dressed figure held securely in a full foam surround. This foam tray can lift out to show the accessories held in another tray below. The feeling of everything here is one of high-end luxury. The tray itself is flocked to give it a velvety finish, and some of the elements are housed in separate semi-opaque containers.

All in all the whole package feels very well considered, and the materials used, along with the quality of finish makes this great looking piece of packaging, fully deserving of a top score!

Sculpting - ****

Just a few short years ago the quality of sculpts and paint apps were universally pretty similar. Then Sideshow saw that there was a growing market amongst adult collectors who were willing to pay a little more for a figure that matched their ‘sophisticated’ sensibilities. And so it was that they set about wooing the likes of me, and probably you, with a superior product. Up until this point I had been feverishly throwing my money at Hasbro, as lets face it, up until this point, the only high-end quality figures you could get were either low edition boot-legst hat cost more than I earned in a week, or military, an area I had little interest in at the time.

There were other players in the field, with the likes of Dragon, DiD and Medicom increasingly looking to licenses from popular culture, but then Hot Toys arrived on the scene. Their initial releases traded more on the quality of the outfits and accessories (and because they already had a proven track record making military figures, the quality of these items was top notch). But over the coming months and years they recruited a more and more talented stable of sculptors headed up by the lovely Yulli Choi, and with the appointment of JC Hong to guide their paint division, they had created a new 1/6th dream team.

Of course this meant the competition had to seriously step up its game. Many were left for dust while others gradually improved, and new companies like ENTERBAY emerged as pretenders to the crown.

Then in the Summer of 2011, many months after they first teased us with some images of their intended Tony Montana figure, and after what had seemed an interminable wait we finally got Blitzway’s first offering. It arrived with quite a fanfare from collectors, as here was a first release from a company that (at the time) was up their with the best Hot Toys and ENTERBAY had to offer, and a year and a half later they have finally done it again.

The sculpting talent here is Mr Arnie Kim, an artist that has worked for both the companies I just mentioned. He made his name on the private commission and small limited edition run circuit, much like KoJun and YJ Park. But after exhibiting at many shows and conventions he was quickly signed up. His name became synonymous with Bruce Lee, and his portraits of the martial arts master became almost as legendary as Lee himself, well amongst collectors anyway. And as the quality of manufacturing improved in 1/6th, so did the superiority of his sculpts. Here he has tackled Al Pacino as Carlito Brigante, and he has come up with quite a stunning piece of work!

The large doleful eyes manage to convey a man who has been through the mill, but continues on regardless. Every wrinkle and crease, every fold in his skin is minutely observed to bring the portrait to life. The work on the hair is also beautifully realised, and rendered in such a way as to give a convincing feeling of weight as it sweeps away from his parting and hangs over his brow.

We also get a selection of hands, all of which are sculpted skilfully, with many of them designed to interact with his various accessories and all have individual rings sculpted as part of them.

All in all this is a very strong piece of work, and has me excited to hear what Blitzway have planned as their next 1/6th release. A De Niro and Pacino double pack from Heat wouldn’t go amiss!

Paint - ****
The paint control here isn’t actually credited to anyone, however the creative director was the rather mysterious ‘K’, and Arnie Kim is credited as both art director and artist, so my guess is that Arnie oversaw the painting as well.

I’ve seen far worse paint apps than this, but I have also seen slightly better, but only very slightly. However, when you reach this level of realism, with this degree of subtle work on the skin colouration and beautifully rendered eyes, that capture that amazing wet look quality, it gets difficult to split hairs! And on that note the hair and beard are a reasonably flat black, but the gently applied graduation where they merge into the skin is carried out with a masterful precision, and as is so often the case with figures that have very dark or black hair, the sculpt and the way light falls over its surface do all the work in adding definition here.

The hands are also painted to give warm realistic tones and the rings are picked out with gold paint and accurate little gem stones are even singled out.

I have no real complaints at all in this category. For a second release it shows an incredible degree of skill and ability, and it has me eager to see how they will handle the larger scaled Bruce Lee statues they have promised.

Articulation - ***1/2
This figure utilises the same body that was used on Tony Montana, a body that Blitzway describe as a ‘slim muscle PVC & ABS body with over 30 points of articulation’. It’s a good body, it’s a solid body and for a company still in the first flush of youth it does the job fine. However it’s not quite perfect!

Virtually all of the joints are up to the quality you would expect, but he is lacking an all-important double joint at the mid elbow. If this was a character that was to be seen with bare arms I could live with it, but as Charlie here will be permanently swathed in layers of shirt and coat that does mean I would have seriously preferred some better articulation in the arms!

Accessories - ****
As I just said in outfit, you need to respect every aspect of your figures release and give it the attention it deserves if you want the rewards, and here we get the well thought through selection of-
 4 Extra hands (6 hands in Total)
 1 x chromed automatic pistol
 1 x black automatic pistol
 1 x flick-knife
 1 x necklace
 1 x gold bracelet
 1 x gold sunglasses
 1 x wad of $ bills
 1 x beer bottle
 1 x gold watch
 1 x newly developed figure stand with metal name tag
 1 x extra shirt (kind of belongs in outfit, but also extras)

What would a low life gangster be, even a reformed one, without a couple of guns? Well luckily Charlie comes with a brace of sidearms in the form of two automatic pistols, both have removable magazines and a sliding cocking mechanism, with the signature chrome one being my favourite of the two. He also has a flick knife for close quarters encounters with Saso, it doesn’t actually ‘flick’, but it does open up to show the narrow stiletto blade.

And being an Italian Stallion he also comes with some sparkly jewellery. As stated above he has rings that are sculpted to his hands but he also has a real metal chain to go round his neck and a gold identity bracelet that actually has his name engraved on it. But we don’t stop there as he also comes equipped with a wristwatch, and as 1/6th wristwatches go it’s a pretty nice one. It’s made of sculpted plastic, but the gold finish and superfine detail on the face make it really rather special. Then to round off his pimped-up porn-star look he also has a pair of gold-rimmed superfly 70’s shades, these have short arms that are designed to push into slots on either side of the head above the ears. It’s the same configuration we got with ENTERBAY’s Scarface and the Hot Toys casual Bruce Lee’s. The wads of Benjamin’s come joined by perforations, but are easily seperated and made into piles of cash. The printing here is well carried out, and the general scaling looks good to my eyes. I have heard tell of folks complaining the design of the bills is not right for the period the movie is set in, I have three words for people who worry about that kind of thing… GET OVER IT!  If you are the type of person to source an actual $100 bill, scan it, scale it, print it multiple times and cut it out, part of me admires your tenacity, however that is a very small part of me, a far bigger part thinks you need to get out more! In fact I’d say kick back, forget about it and sink a couple of brewski’s, which leads me nicely onto the fact that Charlie also has a bottle beer to chug on. However, because of the distinct lack of double elbows he will just be doing some barbecue posing rather than actually knocking one back.

Lastly comes the new figure stand. Now I don’t like stands, I find displays with lots of stands on show really rather naff, but hey it’s not you, it’s me with the problem, plenty of folks seem to love a nice stand! Which is good because this one is a humzinger. It has a rubberised finish to the main plinth and it also has ‘Carlito’s Way’ written on the front made out of sculpted shiny silver letters. Now all of that is nice in an aesthetic sense, but the cute thing here is the creative engineering in the way the ‘stand’ part works. There are two separate wires that are fixed to two independent sliding washers at the back of the stand. These wires join at the top to fix onto a plastic unit that has moving arms so it can sway from side to side. And into this unit you can slide in either a waist gripper or crotch hammock deciding on your preference. It may be hard to visualise from my clumsy description, but trust me it works well. And the way the design works means you can slide the wires to be hidden by the legs, whatever pose you decide upon (well, within reason).

So, a good haul, and one that is made even more impressive by that cool stand… even if I will never use it!

Outfit - ****
These days people expect the whole deal, you have to get the outfit and accessories right just as much as the paint and sculpt. If the whole package doesn’t sing from the same hymn sheet you can run the risk of derision and being considered an also ran, rather than a major player.
Here we get-

  1 x leather overcoat
  2 x shirts
  1 x waistcoat
  1 x necktie
  1 x black trousers
  1 x belt
  1 x pair of black shoes with socks

I can honestly say that this is up there with the VERY best 1/6th tailoring I have EVER seen. I was blown away with the outfit that Hot Toys gave us with the first DX Joker, and I’m sure that quality will be even more ramped up when I see the new DX Joker that was released recently. But this figure has set a great standard for Blitzway in showing the degree of finish we can expect from them. All the tailoring here is snug fitting to the base figure, with that classic Italian cut of slim-fit shirts and tight fitting waistcoats.

The overcoat appears to be real leather (if it isn’t it’s the best leatherette I have seen) and the fine detail on the layered stitching, thin scaled collars, working pockets and a full 2-tone paisley lining is exquisitely executed.

Then we get to the rest of the ensemble. His boots are of a classic Derby style with a Cuban heel (c’mon, this is Pacino, does he ever wear anything else?). they are of a simple sculpted nature, but well finished and they have a pair of black socks  nestled within as well. The trousers are of a traditional suit style, They are black with working pockets and a realistic working belt threaded through the waist loops. The cut here is well designed and the choice of fabric means they hang well. He comes dressed in a grey shirt and tie, and again the way the shirt has been cut, stitched and pressed in amazingly well scaled. No big puffy collars here, instead we have a beautifully executed thin collar with a working tie. A small word to the wise here, the tie is so well applied and tied that I almost didn’t want to try putting the extra shirt onto the figure, but as a reviewer its my job! I discovered the best way to do this with minimum impact on the existing tie/shirt combo was to remove the hands and head, undo the lower buttons and then slip the collar up over the neck without loosening the tie. You can then simply put the other shirt on, and reverse the process when replacing the grey shirt. The second shirt is collarless and has a striped pattern woven into the fabric. Both have miniature buttons expertly glued down the front panels and at the cuffs, and even though collarless this second shirt is still exquisitely tailored to match the other. Of the two I have to admit to preferring the grey shirt and tie, as seldom have I seen ‘regular’ everyday garments like these carried out so well. It makes you realise that the ‘man in a suit’ figures are far from boring when the attention to detail is this outstanding!

Lastly we have his waistcoat, or vest for our American cousins. And I’m happy to report it is more of the same. It is again grey and exhibits the same very high degree of finish. The panels and seam stitching show than an expert pattern cutter has been at work, and the small working breast pocket, adjustable rear waist strap and miniature buttons up the front all come together beautifully.

This is a truly outstanding piece of work in the outfit section, and is deserving of the highest of praise. It actually makes me want to see Blitzway do more ‘men in suits’, perhaps a certain Mr Bond might be right up their alley, or even better Rick Deckard… well, I can dream.

Fun Factor - ***
As I already stated above, Carlito’s Way is not one of my favourite movies. Sure it has a cult following, its well made with solid performances from all its key stars, but it just never really floated my boat. As such I can see this figures appeal, and I love to see characters like this given the high-end treatment. It means you can keep the hope alive that we might get DeNiro as Travis Bickle, Gene Hackman as Jimmy ‘Popeye’ Doyle, Clint Eastwood as Harry Callahan or even Woody Allen as Isaac (OK, OK nobody else wants the Woody Allen figure, but I can dream can’t I?).

So the fun I get from this is derived from the fact that another cool figure from an adult orientated movie has once again been given the respect it deserves. But when I compare it to the likes of the IRON MONGOR or the Bespin- Luke Skywalker it just can’t compare for me on the fun stakes.

However, if you are one of the dyed in the wool fans of this movie you can breathe a sigh of relief that you won’t have to find the $1000+ that KoJuns bootleg went for on the secondary markets (but bear in mind only 30 were made back in 2007), and you may even end up with a slightly better product to boot!

Value - ***3/4
At the full retail price of $ 195 this can’t exactly be considered a bargain. However it is a price that has rather alarmingly become the norm over the last few years. And although its not in a reviewers nature to make allowances for high prices, it does have to be said that for smaller companies that make characters from more leftfield or cult movies, it is obvious they are never going to shift the high amount of units that a more mainstream blockbuster license will. And the fact that collectors today have an ever-escalating level of expectation on the quality that is deliverable, means that these smaller companies have to go all out in ensuring that their product matches up to what their target audience wants. And of course all this comes at a price, both in terms of R&D and manufacturing!

So even though this doesn’t quite pull off a full score, I feel like it kind of deserves one, and I bet this is the only time you will see this character done to this level of quality, and available at a semi-mass produced level. Unless ENTERBAY wants to pick up the gauntlet and prove me wrong?

The price might well have pushed me towards three and a half stars, but the incredible quality of tailoring here has made me reconsider, and just keep this short of a full score!

Overall - ***3/4
As far as quality goes there is very little to complain about here. The sculpt is fantastic and the paint-work, is of a very high standard. The outfit however is pretty exceptional, as good as anything you will find from the very best 1/6th tailoring available today and his accessories can all bear the closest of scrutiny as well.

So it is once again the sticking point of price that is the only thing keeping this from a full score (admittedly a double elbow would have helped sweeten the pill as well), but for the money you pay you are getting an incredibly well constructed figure, and one that has future ‘cult’ grail written all over it!

Where to Buy -
You can buy this direct from Blitzway here for the full RRP of $195 and I also found it with one of the sites sponsors, BBTS here on pre-order for $194.99.

Or you can search ebay for a deal.

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This product was provided for the review by the manufacturer. Photos and text by Jeff Parker.

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