TODAY IT IS TWO REVIEWS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE!
It was too my shame that until recently I had not seen Al Pacino in anything other than his phenomenal performances as Michael Corleone in the Godfather series. So I decided to rectify this the only way I know how… By ignoring my actual work and just watching movies.
First up “Dog Day Afternoon”. Here is the trailer
This film tells the true story of Sonny (Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) who attempt to rob a bank. This turns out to have been a bad idea… I know shocking! The situation rapidly descends into chaos and a national news frenzy. Although trapped and surrounded by police, FBI and news crews the atmosphere inside the bank is surprisingly relaxed with Sonny treating his captives with dignity and respect. Even allowing them relative freedom. The real palpable tension here comes from Sal, who is tightly strung, fervently religious and desperate to not end up back in prison. The question here is whether Sonny can keep him from snapping and shooting the next bank teller who lights a cigarette (which is not very Christian in his eyes).
Outside the bank is where the real drama happens with Sonny attempting to negotiate an escape. His fervent battle cries of “Attica! Attica!”, in reference to the prison riot, gain the support of the general public. He further endears himself by throwing wads of money into the crowd like he’s in a Lil Wayne music video.
However this people’s champion doesn’t have it all his own way. As negotiations intensify and trust wanes, Sonny becomes increasingly aggressive, paranoid and unhinged. This is exacerbated by the involvement of his legal wife, Angela, and his “real” wife, Leon, a pre-op transgender woman. Both of whom reveal the extent to which Sonny has been coming apart as well as his confrontational tendencies. As soon as the public hear of Leon the atmosphere changes into one of hate, oppression and ignorance. Whether it is the crowds wolf whistling at Sonny frisking someone or just plain booing him to the police sniggering and laughing at Leon and her struggles to express who she is. A problem still prevalent today. Where this film succeeds is in highlighting the deep and genuine connection between Sonny and Leon, as well as there struggles and difficulties. In a sense it becomes about how far you are willing to go for someone you love.
The climax of the film is tense and thrilling, giving the film an abrupt but satisfying ending. The performances of Pacino and John Cazale are brilliant and the directing is great.
FUN FACT: John Cazale appeared in 6 films (1 released posthumously) before his death in 1978 : The Godfather Trilogy, The Conversation, Dog Day Afternoon and The Deer Hunter. All of which were nominated for Best Picture of which 3 won (Godfather 1/2 and Deer Hunter). Coincidence? I think not!
Next up “Serpico” here’s is the trailer
For those that don’t know, Serpico is based on the life of Frank Serpico from 1960-72. A truly honest and exceptional NYPD cop who would not bend to the corruption surrounding him within the force. His actions lead to the exposure of this corruption and the formation of the Knapp commission to investigate it. Here Frank became the first police officer to step forward to testify.
Here we see Pacino on the otherside of the law as the titular Serpico, a beat patrol-man and plain clothes officer. Serpico is disliked and mistrusted by other officers not just due to his exceptional skill on the job but his complete refusal to and disapproval of taking bribes. Serpico finds an ally in officer Durk who also wishes to remove the corruption from the force. With each passing year and attempt to find a superior officer, politician or even friend to take the allegations seriously Serpico grow increasingly fraught, distressed and anxious. Pacino is brilliant as Serpico. Giving a real masterclass in acting when the hidden pressures built at work explode in his home life. Destroying multiple relationships, friendships and family ties. Serpico is truly alone in an ever more toxic and dangerous environment. Alone except for his wonderfully shaggy old English sheepdog, Alfie, who with only a single barked line of dialogue steals every scene he’s in. Serpico also sports some rather fantastic facial hair. And a great disguise as a Rabi.
Both of these films are classics and demonstrate exactly how to build tension. Even more impressive given the minimal levels of violence compared to today’s films. Especially since Hollywood has misconstrued violence, blood and gore as the simple formula for tension and fear. …. It’s just lazy and gross. If you make me want to throw up I’m not scared, just nauseous. Or sick from eating my own cooking. The acting and writing is brilliant and deal with issues still relevant today. Police brutality, corruption and LGTBQ rights. I cannot recommend these movies enough.
VERDICT: AL PACINO IS AL RIGHT BY ME. WATCH NOW OR ILL MAKE YOU AN OFFER YOU CAN’T REFUSE