Al Pacino is shouting again. We’ve heard him before, of course, in And Justice for All (”You’re out of order! The whole trial is out of order!”), in Scarface (”[expletives deleted]!”), in Glengarry Glen Ross (”Hey, pal, your excuses are your own!”), and perhaps most memorably in Scent of a Woman, in which his voice often began at a bellow (”If I was the man I was five years ago…”) and rose to a boom (”…I’d take a flamethrower to this place!”). In a world gone wrong, Pacino was always there to elucidate the problem at the top of his lungs.
Back on screen this winter as an LAPD detective in Heat and as a charismatic New York mayor in City Hall, Pacino the master shouter seems to be on to something new. Hoarse from the start (a clue?), Heat’s Vincent Hanna is too intense to merely explode. He can see that people see him as a powder keg, and so he turns it on and off. ”Gimme all you got! Gimme all you got!” he yells, perfectly relaxed, at a snitch. For audiences of the three-hour film, the deliberate decibels are comic relief every time.
Audiences don’t dare laugh at Mayor John Pappas, even as he outshouts your average dozen Baptist deacons while decrying the city’s fate and a child’s death. As self-consciously theatrical as Hanna, Pacino’s Pappas is louder than ever but also a practiced whisperer in City Hall. Is Al Pacino ever too loud? Sound One engineer Mel Zelniker, who has worked rerecording numerous films with Pacino, says it’s not a problem. ”Al presents sort of a unique challenge in the overall dynamic range of his voice, but it’s not impossible to accommodate. He has a good sense of how loud he can be. It’s part of what makes Al Al.”