This is the same as asking who’s your favorite brother. These two magnificent actors have amassed a list of film roles that are some of the best in the past half-century. While their personalities are similar, and their superior acting skills are equal, I must reluctantly vote for Pacino. Sorry, Bobby, knowing what a hell of a nice guy you are, I’m sure you’d vote for Al, too.
My first admiration for De Niro began with his two break-through films, “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull,” and hasn’t diminished since, even though there were a few clunkers along the way. He’s always competent, and if I can add a slight complaint, always De Niro. However, he is like Gary Cooper, Jimmy Stewart, James Cagney and John Wayne, who were always themselves no matter who their movie characters were. His fictional people are real, but there’s always the great personality peeking through.
But, damn it all, in my mind, Pacino edges De Niro out … very slightly … for his career-high role in “The Godfather” movies. Watching his Corleone younger son, Michael, character develop from returning war veteran to fugitive to assuming the mantle of godfather was a tour-de-force we get to see very seldom in movie drama. Pacino has made some other great movies, such as “Dog Day Afternoon” and “Serpico”, but he also did some uncomfortable scenery chewing in the overdone, “Scarface.”
OK, I vote for Pacino, but just don’t tell De Niro, please.