Wednesday, April 20, 2011

590. Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Running Time: 124 minutes
Directed By: Sidney Lumet
Written By: Frank Pierson, from article by P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore
Main Cast: Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Durning, James Broderick, Chris Sarandon


Eleven days ago Sidney Lumet passed away and in honor of his legacy, I've decided to watch his three remaining films in the book. Of course, last month I watched "12 Angry Men" and it immediately became one of the major contenders for the top spot of my next TOP 20 list. "Dog Day Afternoon" is another old time favorite of mine and a film I've seen at least a half dozen times.

The film is based on a true story and stars Al Pacino as Sonny Wortzik. Wortzik, needing money for his lover's sex change operation, enters a bank a few minutes before closing time, with his accomplice Sal (Cazale). It was a simple robbery and Sonny knew all the ins and outs of the banking business, especially the details that had to do with tripping alarms. What should have taken only a few minutes, started to go awry when the groups third accomplice chickens out at the last minute. Furthermore, Sonny soon finds out that the bank had a scheduled pickup on this particular day, so they only stand to get away with about $1100.00. Suddenly the phone rings and the man on the other end tells Sonny that the police have the bank surrounded and there's no way out. Sonny and Sal shuffle to figure out what to do next, as the hostages (including a group of women and the bank manager Mr. Mulvaney) sweat it out inside, on this hot, August afternoon. Eventually Sonny and the hostages become friendly, to the point that Sonny even teaches them army maneuvers with his gun, letting them hold it and practice. Sonny soon makes a list of demands to the cop in charge, Detective Moretti (Durning), that include a limo to take them all to the airport (hostages included) and a jet to take them out of the country.

To be honest, this was much better the first time I watched it - however many years ago that was. It seems like every time I watch "Dog Day Afternoon", my opinion of it gets worse. First of all, there's no doubting that acting capabilities of Al Pacino, as he totally makes this film what it is and without him this could have been a disaster. I like how they weave in a little bit of comedy (my favorite line coming when Sonny picks up the phone and answers, "W-NEW, we play all the hits!) and Pacino delivers them so well that looking back I wished this guy would have been given a legit chance to make a straight up comedy. I also thought Cazale and Durning did great jobs too, Cazale lingering in the background and forcing us to wonder about the real life Sal and was he really that Lurch-looking. Durning is just as good too, bringing in the fire and having some intense back and forths with Pacino's Sonny.

But, as time goes by in the film, it honestly starts to get a little boring and that's even hard for me to admit, but it's true. In fact, this film would have prospered by being about a half hour shorter, as I think it would have served to keep the picture flowing and let's be honest, there were definitely some scenes in there that could have been cut. Once you get past the initial bank holdup and the police arrival, we're pretty much just sitting in a bank with a group of characters as the ring leader runs to the door every five minutes to chit chat with Moretti and yell things at the crowd that gathers (most notably, "ATTICA, ATTICA!!...). Maybe because I've seen it so many times, it just doesn't work anymore, once you know the fate of the main characters. Although, I'll admit, every single time I watch this, I still think Sonny and Sal are going to get out of the bank without being caught and I'll be damned if they never do.

RATING: 7/10 It's hard to shake old time favorites and if I hadn't seen this so many times, I doubt it would even garner a '7', but my repeated viewings and the awesomeness of Pacino give this a thumbs up.


April 20, 2011 3:16pm

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