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USA 1975
Directed by
Sidney Lumet
125 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Dog Day Afternoon

Although it claims to be a true story Dog Day Afternoon, a siege drama with a difference and one of Sidney Lumet's many fine films of the 1970s is only loosely based on real events.

Al Pacino is at his impassioned best as Sonny Wortzik who decides to rob a bank in order to finance a gender re-assignment operation for his boyfriend, played here by Chris Sarandon.  John Cazale, also makes a memorable appearance as Sal, Sonny's partner in the attempt to knock-off a small-time New York bank although rather oddly there is no explanation given for his involvement. The pair bungle the job in a rather comical fashion and get trapped in the bank whilst the media extract every sensationalist drop from their predicament. A relatively slim Charles Durning is a hoot as the NYPD cop trying to persuade Sonny to give himself up.

Very much of the '70s, when hostage taking for one reason or another was a popular activity, cops were pigs, “happenings” were the flavour of the month and gay rights issues were just starting to become visible, Dog Day Afternoon exemplifies the robust, maverick film-making that emerged in America in the late 1960s and early '70s.

Lumet directs with his characteristic focussed economy and sense of realism however the film’s intensity dips somewhat when Leon makes an appearance, skewing the attention away from the bank interior and Sonny, but then tightens up for its tragic conclusion. Frank Pierson’s script won an Oscar although the film missed out on its other five nominations.

FYI: Lumet and Pacino had previously combined talents on Serpico (1973) whilst Cazale had famously appeared with Pacino in 1972 in The Godfather.




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