The character of Carlito Brigante is not an archetype that would be considered original. Carlito represents the classic cinema presentation of a criminal looking to go straight after getting out of prison, but his past will not let him. In time, Carlito is drawn back into the underworld he wished to escape. This creates a character that is tragically doomed to remain in a life he has rejected and wants no part of. So, what is it that motivates the character in the film? To a great extent, Carlito is character motivated by guilt to be born again. That is, he wishes to live a normal life having learned his lesson after leaving prison.
Unfortunately, the world he returns to does not share his values. Eventually, the world absorbs him once again. He is still motivated to experience a rebirth, but he begins to alter his vows in order to “modify” his rebirth in order for it to remain in concert with the criminal world. The inciting incident that upends Carlito’s original plans of “going straight” occurs when he goes along with his cousin on a narcotics deal. The deal goes bad and Carlito finds himself in a shootout. Carlito comes out successful in the shootout and walks away with enough money to purchase a nightclub.
From this, Carlito hopes to have a means of going straight. This displays the flawed values of the character of Carlito. He wishes to go straight, but is locked in an environment that makes going straight difficult. Therefore, he does what he can do with the hope he can become reborn a new person with a new place in the world. Unfortunately for Carlito, he does not realize that his decisions make An Analysis of Rebirth in Carlio’s Way -2 becoming a new person impossible. No one can be 10% a criminal. Being a criminal is an all or nothing proposition. This begs the question why Carlito does not see the evil of his actions.
Part of the reason for this is that the film does not look at good and evil in classical, black and white manner. As the saying goes, much of the presentation here is in shades of gray. That is because the film tries to present a realistic world that is more complex that a cartoonish action-adventure film. In a world were criminality is common, much of the criminality is approached from a business perspective. While a hitman and a serial killer are both murderers, a hitman does not pose a threat to the public at large. While hitmen are sociopaths, they are not psychotic.
If they were, they would be unreliable in their primary job. However, they do not belong in society and prefer to live in a criminal underworld where they possess conflicting moral codes. Such is the case with Carlito because he is equal parts a criminal and a decent person. Carlito lives in a world where criminals do have a certain code of honor. They are loyal to their friends and family and do not wish to harm those outside of the business. However, they remain willfully blind to the aspects of their business that are harmful to “civilians”. Narcotics, after all, wreck havoc through all parts of society.
This, however, is an inconvenient fact that the villains in the film ignore. However, they eventually do An Analysis of Rebirth in Carlio’s Way – 3 pay the price for their actions when the illegality of their actions brings forth consequences. As such, characters such as Carlito are not evil as much as they are morally skewed which is, in essence, a more realistic, dynamic, and dramatic portrayal. The ending of Carlito’s Way re-enforces the tragic nature of the character. Carlito is ambushed in a gunfight and shot. He is carried away on a hospital gurney thinking of his wife and unborn child.
As the film ends, we assume that Carlito has died a tragic victim of the violent life he chose to return to. Ironically, he only returned to it as a means of leaving. That is, with “one last score and a few dollars more” he can leave his criminal life behind forever. Ultimately, he does leave the life behind forever but he does so in death. This, too, is ironic as it took his death to finally deliver the rebirth that he so desired. For Carlito, the only world he truly knows is a criminal one. No matter how he tries to alter his place in this world, he cannot make it any less criminal than it is.
That means he can never achieve the rebirth that he wishes. In his death, he no longer has to alter the world because he is no longer a part of it. This allows him to achieve the peace that he no longer has to be part of an existence that is criminal. While he hoped to achieve this with leaving town with his wife and unborn child, escape from the criminal world was impossible without leaving the actual world. This is what he eventually achieves even though it was not his original intention. However, the criminal world is never one that can ever be considered predictable. Carlito, of all people, should have known this.