Ty Burr
April 08, 1994 AT 04:00 AM EDT

After the fine cheap thrills of Raising Cain, Brian De Palma backslid with Carlito’s Way, this ambitious, sprawling, emtpy saga about a Spanish Harlem druglord (Pacino) whose pals on the street won’t let him go straight. Individual scenes glisten like hot jewelry (a shoot-out in a drug den, a chase through Grand Central Station), but video robs De Palma’s operatic style of oomph, and his star never seems to get out of first gear. Penn is great fun as Carlito’s wormy, coked-out lawyer, but he’s the only one here who sidesteps pretension. Otherwise, De Palma and Pacino have taken two novels by Edwin Torres and sifted them of everything but the clichés. C

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