Although it was met with tepid responses from film critics and became a bitter disappointment at the box office, the 1993 crime thriller Carlito's Way eventually found its way on to many top movie lists and ultimately achieved "cult classic" status.
Riding on the heels of previous gangster/crime drama films such as Goodfellas, King of New York, Juice, and Reservoir Dogs, Carlito's Way was director Brian De Palma's second best in the genre following another classic of his, Scarface, released just a decade prior (although we'd be remiss in not mentioning The Untouchables). Adapted from the novel bearing the same name, the film stars Al Pacino, Luis Guzman, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Penn, and more—the film is poetic, in that it's a Shakespearean tragedy disguised as crime fiction, or as someone once put it, "a sheep in wolf's clothing."
The mob epic follows Carlito "Charlie" Brigante, an ex-con of Puerto Rican descent, portrayed by Al Pacino, at the helm of life-after-prison ship, trying to navigate through life's ills. Framed through a monochromatic lens, the film's prologue opens with the titular character seemingly meeting his demise, catching a few rounds, then being wheeled out of the train station; his world being turned upside down both figuratively and literally, thanks in part to some amazing cinematography by Stephen H. Burum. "Somebody's pulling me closer to the ground. I ain't panicked, I've been here before" are the first few lines spoken (and marvelously sampled by JAY-Z on the Intro to his sophomore album, In My Lifetime Vol. 1).
Although he's left the chaotic world-of-crime, Brigante is still connected to the underworld, because, well, no honor amongst gangsters. With a few racks put together from a botched drug deal, Carlito buys into a nightclub (El Paraiso, which is also a nod and easter egg to De Palma's '83 film, Scarface), conjuring up dreams of investing in a car rental business in the Bahamas. The film follows the former brutish hitman and mover-of-weight as he traverses across the solid white line of criminal activity and righteous virtues, while attempting to avoid the oncoming onslaught of lawlessness, including undesired interactions with shady characters such as the notorious Benny (Blanco) from the Bronx.
No matter what, the now-contrite Brigante just can't seem to escape the vicious, downward spiral of despair and violence, seemingly trapped in a tailspin of self-perpetuating destructive behavior, all the while doing his best to keep his eyes on his ultimate goal: achieving his idyll vision of utopia; a life of retirement and bliss. As those of you who've watched the film know, this crime epic ends the same way it started: with his strict code of honor foresaking him, the film ending with his eyes setting on the "Escape To Paradise" advert plastered in the train station as life leaves his body and ironically, paradise escaping him.
Both our "Brigante" and "Escape To Paradise" graphics pay homage to the grand finale scene of De Palma's oeuvre d'art, as well as the film's eponymous antihero. At the end of the day, we're all human, and we have our slices of paradise we either physically or mentally escape to when trying to avoid any of the numerous vices and demons we battle on a daily. Whether that's heading to the beach with a squad of friends, surfing, reading, listening to music, or playing video games. Life hands us limitless unpleasant realities, and that which brings us pleasure is our escapism from the madness. For us, our Brigante graphic is a pillar of what FITTED was and has become. In a way, our story mirrors that of Carlito's path, with the exception being that while the film's protagonist never fulfilled his destiny of reaching his vision of paradise, the success story of FITTED realizes that journey, and every release narrates the story of how we got to where we are. We live in Hawaiʻi; we're already in paradise. At the end of the day, we're all a bunch of highly motivated kids who drove by a fork in the road and went straight, changing our outcome of not being yet another local statistic.
How would you escape to paradise?