Thursday, April 21, 2011

570. SERPICO (1973)

Running Time: 130 minutes
Directed By: Sidney Lumet
Written By: Waldo Salt, Norman Wexler, from book by Peter Maas
Main Cast: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Tony Roberts, Bernard Barrow, M. Emmet Walsh


Continuing on with our three film tribute to the late Sidney Lumet, we come to "Serpico". Actually we go back to "Serpico", as I should have actually watched this one prior to "Dog Day Afternoon", but it's all good. I had only seen "Serpico" one time prior to today and this time around my opinion pretty much stayed the same.

Al Pacino is once again our main man and is once again portraying a real life figure, this time Frank Serpico. Frank has just graduated police academy and wants nothing more than to be a stand out cop. Serpico starts where all cops start, in a uniform, doing shift work and chasing down collars. Soon he becomes a plainclothes officer, wearing funky outfits and sporting a massive mustache and beard, trying his best to blend in with the street life of New York City. When Serpico does move to plainclothes he makes a discovery that shatters his idea of what an officer of the law is supposed to be. He finds that a lot of the men on the force are taking paybacks and Serpico doesn't pussy foot around in making it known that he wants no part of it. He falls under heavy criticism from his fellow officers and is constantly ridiculed for being an honest cop. Frank makes several transfers, but can't seem to shake the corruption that seems to follow him everywhere he goes. Frank has to look over his shoulder at every turn and can count on no one, as he has no friends on the force.

I feel the same about "Serpico" as I did about "Dog Day Afternoon", in that Al Pacino makes this film and without him this would have been a prime contender for the "not for me" pile. I was always a big fan of Pacino and this is really a great outing for him, as he gets the chance to have a few outbursts and otherwise really shine as Frank Serpico. I wasn't all that into the story, as the passing of time has made the story of the dirty cop a cliche one. The book points out that in 1973 this was potentially risky subject matter and cops were always portrayed, for the most part, in a positive light. Now, in 2011, dirty cop stories are a dime a dozen and as a whole they're just not for me. However, "Serpico" shines a little brighter than some of the more recent ones and all in all it kept me interested enough to really want to see how things turned out for Frank. The book also points out that the only downfall of "Serpico" is the score, which I couldn't disagree with more, as it totally worked for me and really made me feel sympathy for our hero.

I should also point out that in a week filled with the watching of this and "The Thin Blue Line", my faith in the justice system (both the law and the order) are getting totally marred. I mean, here all you had was a man who wanted to be a cop, protect and serve and like the boy who found out that Superman was nothing more than a tight wearer with rocket launcher on his back, Frank's dreams are totally dashed. In a way, this film kind of reminded me of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington", which pretty much deals with the same type of character (a man who believes in the system, only to find out that the system is corrupt) and had me feeling about the same amount of sympathy. If only our White House was filled with Jefferson Smith's and our streets being protected by Frank Serpico's, then we'd be in business.

RATING: 6.5/10 That's a total knee jerk rating and by the time the end of the month rolls around, I can definitely see this one climbing in the ratings via the monthly recap.


April 20, 2011 9:17pm

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