Thursday, October 29, 2009

#443: Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Director: Sidney Lumet
Cast: Al Pacino, John Cazale & Charles Durning

Based on a true event, Dog Day Afternoon demonstrates the effect a camera has on people. When the police and news crews surround the bank that Sonny and Sal unsuccessfully attempt to rob, the street fills up with people, cheering on their anti-hero. Everyone involved in the situation relishes their moment in the spotlight, including a bank teller who decides to stay as a hostage and a pizza deliveryman who drops off the bank workers’ dinner. The plot snowballs as more of Sonny’s relations enter the picture, creating an incredibly complex character that is never analyzed, only presented.

A political commentary is strung throughout the story, though never the centerpiece of the film. An inflated economy brings Sonny to his current position, the known brutality of police keep him in the position, and sexual orientation (and the views of society on it) drives him to succeed. However, despite all the political undertones, the film never outwardly exposes itself as a statement on the present state of society.

The humor in this film is completely new, making a crime drama a lighthearted experience. Rather than being considered a comedy (or docudramedy, as it were), the humor is never there for hardy laughs, but simply makes the film a quirky take on the way criminals become glamorized through the media.

Two thumbs up for a very unique take on a real life bank robbery.

Fun Trivia (Stolen from IMDB):

  • The real bank robber (John Wojtowicz) had watched The Godfather (1972) the day he robbed the Chase Manhattan bank to get ideas. Both Al Pacino and John Cazale were in "The Godfather".
  • Al Pacino's performance as Sonny Wortzik is ranked #4 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Performances of All Time (2006).
  • In the 1972 "Life" magazine article that inspired the film, P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore describe robber John Wojtowicz as "a dark, thin fellow with the broken-faced good looks of an Al Pacino or a Dustin Hoffman". Al Pacino, of course, played the role based on Wojtowicz, and when he nearly quit the film early on, the role was offered to Dustin Hoffman.
  • The bank's manager Robert Barrett later said he had more laughs in that one night than he'd had in weeks, while teller Shirley Bell said if they'd been her houseguests on a Saturday night it would have been hilarious.
  • Pacino's now legendary shouting to the crowd of "Attica! Attica!" was an improvisation.

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