Movie of the Week: Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

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Sidney Lumet directs Al Pacino, John Cazale and Charles Durning in this true crime story of a bank robbery that goes wrong in New York City, inviting a police siege, a media circus and no way out for the inexperienced criminals.

One of the finest films ever made – it bungs you right dead centre into its chaos. You feel every emotion of the unravelling farce of the robbery and then share the mounting pressure to escape. A film that deftly explores police brutality, gay rights and the reality of criminality yet keeps its wry sense of humour. Pacino is superb, delivering probably his most nuanced performance as a frazzled first time robber walking the highwire tightrope of keeping himself and the hostages safe while still desperately trying to negotiate a break. He is showy, slightly effete, without being hammy. Still and silent John Cazale’s simple and unhinged partner in crime is a liability… a troubled, confused man with a machine gun. Fine, if they were in and out in five minutes but not built for the day long tensions of the stand-off. Lumet’s recreation is one of reportage – he wants to capture the heat, the antagonism, the circus and the mania of the extreme situation. It helps he is on home turf. New York plays itself perfectly here, it wouln’t have quite the same energy if set anywhere else. In terms of pacing… we probably get stuck a little on Pacino’s Sonny meeting loved ones a tad too much in the final stretch. But it is an indulgence you can forgive a near perfect, gripping and classily pleasurable drama.

10

 

My Top 10 Al Pacino Movies

1. The Godfather (1972)
2. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
3. Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) (Warning – Minor Hoo Ha!)
4. The Godfather Part 2 (1974)
5. The Insider (1999)
6. Heat (1995) (Warning – Major Hoo Ha!)

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7. Scent of a Woman (1992) (Warning – Major Hoo Ha!)

8. Serpico (1973)

9. Insomnia (2002) (Warning – Minor Hoo Ha!)

10. The Godfather Part III (1990)

 

 

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