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 exactly did it go wrong for the man who wanted it all? The tenacious Montana was straight off the banana boat, but he didn’t let that 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 Tony from the pesky arm of the law, and with his dream girl and best friend in tow, nothing could stop him; except, of course, himself.
In this article, VHS Revival documents Montana’s journey to self-destruction in five simple mistakes.
1. Refusing to Fly Straight
After failing to convince the American authorities of his squeaky-clean past, Montana was soon shipped off to the detention centres with the rest of the Cuban criminals who were smuggled into the States by Castro. 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).
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 was less than impressed by his boss’s status, and even less by his moral code as Frank warned his power-hungry protege about wanting too much. ‘Those who fly straight, they last,’ he would tell him, ‘but those who want it all, they don’t last.’
Some fair advice, but Montana was never one to take a backseat. Not only did he not listen to Frank’s words of wisdom, he set about squashing him with designs on taking his place at the top of the narcotics mountain, as well as stealing his runaway beauty, Elvira Hancock (Michelle Pfeiffer), a decision that would one day prove Frank right.
2. Playing the Surrogate Father
Like most sociopaths, Montana possesses something of a corrupt moral code, displaying the kind of hypocrisy that is never more evident than when his sister Gina is involved. Gina is a simple soul making an honest living when her big brother comes along with his flash clothes and jail manners. Gina’s mamma has raised her well, and she is fully aware of her son’s destructive capacities – eventually, he destroys everything that comes his way.
Of course, 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 he doesn’t like it when she begins hanging around in flash places. He wants her in his life, but he smacks her around when she begins cavorting with criminals of his ilk. He wants her to find happiness, but he won’t stand for anybody touching her.
Eventually, Gina is drawn to the only man who she feels is immune to her brother’s protective rage, but when it comes to his flesh property, Tony is the kind of 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.
3. 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 intercedes with, ‘Don’t get high on your own supply.’ Of course, not everyone in Frank’s life follows the rules, and it is Tony’s romance with the coke-addicted Ms. Hancock which sets him on the road to ruin.
As Tony tramples over the competition he is disciplined and savvy in his maneuvers, and like the tigers which 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 lad him some serious time. The only way out of his tangled web is to first become entangled in that of Sosa’s, and a world in which morality simply does not apply
It is here when 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 afford to become consumed by if they are to survive the ruthless and unforgiving realms of Miami and beyond. ‘A junkie! I got a junkie for a wife,’ Montana laments. Like most abusers of wealth, he doesn’t even realise he has a problem.
4. Fucking with Alejandro Sosa
When international drug king Alejandro Sosa (Paul Shenar) decides to dispose of Lopez associate Omar Suarez (F. Murray Abraham), Montana’s integrity is questioned. But Montana speaks from the heart, and the wizened Sosa is a fine judge of character when it comes to weeding out the slimeballs. Sosa decides that they can do great business together, and Tony is only to happy to form a partnership as he gets ready to usurp his boss, Frank. The two of them form a pact, but Sosa has a warning his latest protege, one that even Montana takes seriously.
All is good between the two until Sosa lands himself in some political hot soup and asks Tony for a favour. He is to fly to New York with one of his associates and assassinate a public speaker intent on exposing his drug empire. Tony isn’t keen, but in exchange he will help Tony with his own legal wrangle. By now, Tony is hitting the drugs hard, and when plans change and Tony is expected to blow up a wife and and her children, you just know that something has to give.
After refusing to lower his moral standards and subsequently shooting disposal expert Alberto in the face, Tony returns home to a call from a furious Sosa who explains that the man who 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 South American seethes, and as Sosa finds out by Montana’s response, there is only so far you can push him before he threatens all-out war. The problem is, there can only be one winner on this occasion, and for perhaps the first time in his life that winner isn’t Tony.
5. 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 the reality was, Tony needed 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 always there to lend some soothing advice. When Tony was all business, his partner in crime was there to remind him of the fun times, to raise the occasional smile on an intense and troubled face. Whenever Tony lost it with his precious sister Gina, Manny was there to pick her up and drive her home.
Manny is a straight-up womaniser, but forced into spending valuable time with his partner’s kid sister, he soon begins to change, seeing in Gina things that he had never before seen. 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 given the circumstances, 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 step for Montana, the point of no return. He may be a ruthless loner who cares only about power, but he always had his friend to fall back on. Sadly, that is the case no more, and by the time he returns home to his lonely mansion, there is nothing left to do but say hello to his little friend.