VHS Revival analyses the downfall of Cuba’s most iconic import
From political refugee to Miami kingpin, for a brief period the world was truly his, but where did it go wrong for the man who wanted it all? The tenacious Montana was straight off the banana boat, but that didn’t stop him. All he had in this world was his word and his balls, and he didn’t break them for no one.
It was this kind of straight-shooting attitude that allowed Montana to quickly climb the ranks. From drug mule to fearsome associate, he would conquer the local territories and get in tight with the likes of Alejandro Sosa, a South American drug lord with the power to insulate him from the pesky arm of the law, and with his dream girl and best friend in tow, nothing could stop him; except, of course, for himself.
In this article, VHS Revival documents Montana’s journey to self-destruction in five simple mistakes.
Refusing to Fly Straight
After arriving in the land of the free and failing to convince American authorities of his ‘squeaky-clean’ past, Montana was soon shipped off to a detention centre with the rest of the Cuban crime wave. That was until he and sidekick Manny Ribera (Steven Bauer) were offered a Green Card in return for assassinating a political snitch who had tortured the brother of Miami kingpin Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia) back in Cuba.
After being set up by Frank’s right-hand man, Montana would buy his way into Lopez’s crew with the yeyo he managed to salvage from a drug deal gone awry, but Tony is less than impressed by his boss’ status, and even less by his moral code after Frank warns his power-hungry protege about wanting too much. “Those who fly straight, they last,” Frank claimed. “But those who want it all, they don’t last.”
Fair advice, but Montana was never one to take a backseat. Not only does he ignore Frank’s words of wisdom, he sets about squashing him with designs on taking his place at the top of the narcotics mountain, a decision that ultimately proves Frank right.
Playing the Surrogate Father
Like all sociopaths, Montana possesses something of a dubious moral code, displaying the kind of hypocrisy that is never more evident than when his sister Gina (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) is involved. Gina is a simple soul making an honest living when her big brother comes along with his flash clothes and jail manners, threatening to corrupt all that his mamma stands for and everything she has taught Gina to be.
But Tony is not the kind of guy who takes No for an answer, and it isn’t long before his contradictions begin to hurt his kid sister. He wants her to have money but doesn’t like it when she hangs around in flash places. He wants her in his life but smacks her around when she begins cavorting with criminals. He wants her to find happiness but he won’t stand for anybody touching her. She’s free to do as she pleases as long as she does what he says.
Eventually, Gina is drawn to the only man she feels is immune to her brother’s protective rage, but when it comes to his flesh property, Tony is a proud animal who relents for no man, and soon his kid sister is squirming under his oppressive wing, succumbing to a torrent of machine gun fire less than a year after he strolled back into her life.
Getting High on his Own Supply
Early in the movie, Frank Lopez is giving Tony the rundown on the dos and don’ts of successful business, when a mocking Elvira Hancock (Michelle Pfeiffer) intercedes with the iconic line, “Don’t get high on your own supply.” But not everyone in Frank’s life follows the rules, and it’s Tony’s romance with the coke-addicted Ms. Hancock that sets him on the road to ruin.
As Tony tramples over the competition, he is disciplined and savvy; like the tigers that continue to fascinate him, he always has his eye on the prize. But as his addiction grows so does his paranoia, and soon he is caught up in a legal wrangle which threatens to land him some serious jail time. The only way out of his tangled web is to become entangled in that of Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar), embracing a world in which morality simply does not apply.
It is here that Montana’s drug abuse truly spirals out of control, resulting in rash decisions, dulled instincts, and the kind of schizoid delusions that no criminal can be consumed by if they’re to survive the ruthless and unforgiving streets of Miami.
“A junkie! I got a junkie for a wife,” Montana laments in a wonderfully tense confrontation in an elite Miami restaurant, surrounded by those who, as Tony explains, know how to hide their corruption. Like most abusers with the wealth to fun their habits, he doesn’t even realise he has a problem.
Fucking with Alejandro Sosa
When international drug king Alejandro Sosa decides to dispose of Lopez associate Omar Suarez (F. Murray Abraham), Montana’s integrity is questioned. But Montana speaks from the heart, and the sagacious Sosa is a fine judge of character when it comes to weeding out the slime balls.
After analyzing Montana like a well-oiled snake in the grass, Sosa decides they can do great business together, and Tony is only too happy to form a partnership as he gets ready to usurp his boss, Frank. The two of them quickly form a relationship, but Sosa has a warning for his latest protege, one that even a pit bull like Montana knows to take seriously.
All is good between the two until Sosa lands himself in some political hot soup and asks Tony for a favour. Tony is asked to fly to New York with one of Sosa’s associates and assassinate a public speaker intent on exposing his drug empire. Tony isn’t keen, but in exchange Sosa will help him with his own legal wrangle. By now, Montana is hitting the drugs hard, and when plans change and he’s expected to blow up a wife and and her children, you know that something has to give.
After refusing to lower his moral standards and subsequently wasting disposal expert Alberto, Tony returns home to a call from a furious Sosa, who explains that the man he was supposed to dispose of gave an important speech that may prove detrimental to he and his partners. “I told you a long time ago, you fucking little monkey, not to fuck with me!” the shady South American seethes, and as Sosa quickly finds out, there is only so far he can push his Cuban lackey before he threatens all-out war. The problem is, there can only be one winner, and for perhaps the first time in his life that winner isn’t Tony.
Crushing his Bestest Cock-a-roach
Tony’s best friend Manny Ribera was never really cut out to be a gangster. Sure, when the need arose he could kill with the best of them, but he liked the women more than the money and would rather have a line of designer jeans with his name tattooed across chicks’ asses than he would run a drug empire.
But Tony needs someone like Manny by his side, a guy to act as the sober yin to his raging yang. Whenever Tony flipped in bouts of unforeseen rage, Manny was there to ease the pressure cooker. When Tony was all business, his partner was there to remind him of the fun times, to raise the occasional smile on a face mired in politics. Whenever Tony lost it with his precious sister, Gina, Manny was there to pick up the pieces.
Manny is a straight-up womaniser, but forced into spending valuable time with his partner’s kid sister, he soon begins to change, finding in Gina feelings that he never thought existed. With Gina unable to spend time with anyone else under her brother’s watchful eye, those feelings are soon reciprocated, and before long Tony has succeeded in driving the two of them into each other’s arms.
Any reasonable person would be happy with this arrangement, but when Tony arrives at a mansion on Coconut Grove and sees his sister and Manny wearing his-and-hers robes, that all-too-familiar rage takes hold, and before he knows it he has gunned down his best friend in cold blood. This is the final straw for Montana, the point of no return. He may be a ruthless loner concerned only with power, but he always had his best friend to fall back on.
Sadly, that is no longer the case, and by the time Tony returns home to his lonely mansion, besieged by the war he himself instigated, there is nothing left to do but say hello to another, dare I say little, friend.