Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Crime, Drama, 125 minutes
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Starring Al Pacino, John Cazale and Charles Durning
Al Pacino is one of the best actors of his generation and has given us many memorable characters, from Michael Corleone in The Godfather trilogy to his Oscar-winning portrayal of Frank Slade in Scent of a Woman. But if I had to pick my favorite character, it would be Sonny Wortzik. So, as the snow falls in Ontario, I decided to escape to the dog days of Brooklyn in the 1970s.
Pacino's performance was so full of energy. He switched from ranting like maniac to moments of quiet reflection. He appeared dangerous when required, but showed that he cared about the plight of his hostages a moment later. In fact, most of his hostages ended up rooting for him to succeed in his attempt to rob their bank. Heist movies are something I enjoy when they are executed well, and this would top my list. What's interesting is the reason Sonny attempts the robbery at all, but I won't reveal that here. It was certainly controversial back in 1975.
Sidney Lumet was responsible for the first entry on this list; 12 Angry Men. With Dog Day Afternoon, he showed us how the media was capable of turning criminals into celebrities. With his sidekick watching the hostages, Sonny ventured into the streets and performed for the gathering crowd. You'll probably find that you want Sonny to escape too because Lumet does such a good job of showing us his character and motivations. Isn't it strange how we sometimes root for the criminal?
Lance Henriksen makes an appearance toward the end of the movie and it helped launch his career. The resolution might not be what all that we were hoping for, but the movie was based on a true story. I remember watching Dog Day Afternoon in my early teens, and my taste in movies was very different from what it is today. But something about the story held my attention even then.
One thing I learned is never attempt a robbery with a partner who thinks Wyoming is a country.
on May 3, 2004
Well-done, tense drama of a botched bank robbery in Brooklyn in which two misfits commit one absurd blunder after another and turn a criminal act into a three-ring circus, what with the police, crowds and the media swarming upon the bank to observe the comedy of errors.
Al Pacino is superb as Sonny who wants the money to finance a sex-change operation for his transsexual lover (well done by Chris Sarandon). Aiding and abetting Sonny is half-wit Sal (John Cazale in a solid characterization) who chooses Wyoming as a foreign country destination for a safe haven. Charles Durning scores as Detective Moretti who spars with Sonny throughout the afternoon and arranges "safe" passage for him and Sal to JFK and their would-be flight to freedom. There are snippets of dialogue from the 1956 feature film, "The Lone Ranger", that is heard in the background during the hostage standoff inside the bank. Ironic because the Ranger's law-and-order message falls on deaf criminal ears during the commission of the felony.
Sidney Lumet's Oscar-nominated direction is sharp throughout. Based on actual events, "Dog Day Afternoon" is another great winner from the 1970s, Hollywood's second Golden Age. 5 stars out of 5.
on June 15, 2003
Dog Day Afternoon is another classic film of the 70's, that thanks to a strong cast, and the sure handed direction of Sidney Lumet, still holds up quite well. Even by today's standards of having eye candy over substance, can not deminish the film's intensity.
Sonny Vorshak (Al Pacino) and his friend Sal (John Cazale)are in need of some money. After exhausting all of their options, the two men decide to rob a New York City bank,in broad daylight, on a hot Summer afternoon. When the bandit's plan goes a bit haywire, they are forced to hold hostages, and engage in a standoff with the police. Detective Eugene Moretti (Charles Durning)is put in charge of the situation and must find a way to end the seige. The task is made more difficult as Sonny soon becomes something of a hero to the city.
Lumet captures the mood and tension of a city on edge, with the some fine filmmaking skill, and a gritty realism that marked many films made during 70's. Like his classic film, 12 Angry Men, Lumet makes good use out of limited sets and locations Once again Pacino proves why he is such a great actor. He is not just an actor playing a role, he Is Sonny Vorshak, no ifs ands or buts about it. The rest of the cast is tops as well. The fact that the movie is based on a real life incident is only icing on the cake
Dog Day Afternoon is a five star film that deserves to be a better DVD. I hope that a special edition version will find its way to a release date soon. For now, the current disc features only a few production notes,in the way of extras. The film can be viewed in either the widescreen or fullscreen formats
Recommended until the special edition DVD comes along
on January 19, 2003
No one who is an appreciator of fine acting should ever pass on a Sidney Lumet film. Never known for his cinematographic innovations, it is practically a truism that Lumet managed to draw out life-best performances from the many good and great actors he's had working for him. I've never done the math, but I'd almost bet that he sports more best lead and supporting Oscars than any other director in the history of film. His formula, if you can call it that, is turning up the heat on his characters to unbelievable pressure, but refusing to let them boil over.
In Dog Day Afternoon, Sonny, a very humanly desperate bank robber, experiences what has to be the most exasperating run of bad luck in the history of bank robberies. Not only is he saddled with a klutz for a partner (also played and written with heart-torquing humanity), but they have to take hostages, there's no money in the bank, a fire starts in a garbage can, sheer chance causes a shopper across the street to notice something strange in the bank so the police are called. Bad enough so far, especially on a swelteringly unbearable day. Eventually the police arrive, who are in turn surrounded by a mob of people who are more supportive of the bank robbers than the police (this is, after all, 1972). The bank robbers even begin to befriend their hostages, until finally Sonny's secret lover shows up to tell the gathered media how Sonny was robbing the bank to pay to get him a sex change. Sonny is baffled, the police are baffled ... only the mob seems sure of anything on this improbably crazy day in New York. And what makes the movie most unbearably sad and funny at the same time is that it's all based on true events.
Just as Lumet was able to pull off being limited to a single juryroom with 12 men in "Twelve Angry Men" without allowing the movie to become boring, the larger canvass of "Dog Day Afternoon" disguises the fact that this is basically a drama that takes place in a single room as well. Precisely as the characters don't rant and scream normally in a Lumet movie, so also is it the very staticness of plot, which feels like everyone is hold their breath waiting for something to happen, that makes it so nerve-tingling.
The acting is great, but Pacino is impeccable. Eschewing the uncut machismo that de Niro has allowed himself to be molded by, here Pacino's tough-guy bank robber is more of an endlessly put-upon Job. Lumet has framed things so that it's as if Sonny was just going to run into a deli to get a sandwich, and ended up in the midst of some giant shoot-out. Never has a movie about sheer bad luck been so well-made.
If there was ever a movie that cried, "Oh for god's sake" from beginning to end, "Dog Day Afternoon" is that movie, and it does so with inimitable style. A genuine classic and must-see Pacino.
on December 2, 2002
This film is based on a true story and stars a young Al Pacino as a bank robber who leads a heist in Brooklyn on August 22, 1972. He holds 9 people hostage as he makes his demands to the 250 policemen and FBI agents gathered outside. Also gathered outside are crowds of people and the news media, making them the hottest thing on TV. Sonny even has fans who chant his name every time he appears at the door to make negotiations for his escape.
Most notable of Sonny's lack of experience in crime is when he orders pizza for his hostages via the FBI, then thinks he has to pay for it. He gets some marked $5 bills for this. The pizza guy is cheered as he delivers to Sonny, then waves to the crowd and yells "I'm a star!" because this routine duty was broadcast live.
There is also some Stockholm syndrome going on as Sonny's hostages start to like him.
As the movie plays out, we learn why Sonny wanted to rob the bank so badly, and it is truly unexpected, especially for 1972. In addition, I appreciate that Sonny's wife is played by a compentent actress who knows how to deliver her lines, and she is overweight and harried, not a supermodel in denim overalls which is how they would cast her today. She is believable and adds to the gritty feel of the whole dog day afternoon.
on May 4, 2002
I can't say enough good things about this film. The very fact that the versatile director Sidney Lumet was even able to pull it off--and so convincingly--is amazing. It's also Pacino doing the finest work of his career. He is incredible in a difficult role; his stamina holds up throughout without any breaks in continuity, and he is able to make Sonny both tragic and likeable, even for all of the character's flawed logic and bumbling ineffectiveness as a robber. The scene towards the end when he dictates his will to the bank teller who writes it up is one of the most moving scenes in all of cinema. Lumet and crew are to all to be commended. The film's atmosphere is perfectly captured--you can FEEL the stifiling, sweltering heat inside the bank as if you are sitting in there with the hostages. If DDA hadn't been released during the same year as "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" (which swept almost ALL the Academy Awards in almost every major category for 1975) it would have won all of the same awards, hands down, as far as I'm concerned. As it turned out, it unfortunately won only one award, for screenplay. But awards or not, you will NEVER forget this movie. Pacino has never been this good, even in the Godfather series.
on April 20, 2002
This is one of the best "based on true events" movies that you will ever see. It tells the story of a bank robbery that first turned into a hostage taking and then became a piece of street theatre in New York one hot summer's day in the early seventies.
Sonny (Al Pacino) wanted to rob a bank to raise money for his boyfriend to have a sex change. Together with Sal (John Cazale) he held up a small bank in New York at closing time. They bungled the robbery and, instead of getting away with the money, they found themselves inside the bank surrounded by cops and with the entire staff as hostages.
Over several hours, they tried to negotiate a way out with the police and FBI. The negotiations took place on the street outside the bank in full view of a growing audience and, despite the attempts of the negotiators, the whole thing turned into a piece of street theatre.
Al Pacino does a brilliant job in the role of Sonny. It is easy to believe that this character could plan the robbery and then think and react as he did in what then became a siege. John Cazale does not make such an impression but, in part, that is because of the way that his part is scripted and set as a quiet, introverted type. Penelope Allen, in the role of Sylvia the chief cashier, is a fine support to Pacino. Like him, her character is always on the brittle edge but holding her staff together.
Nobody else really makes much of an impression, the cops, lead by Charles Durning as Detective Eugene Moretti and James Broderick (I) as FBI agent Sheldon are pretty much standard issue out of the hollywood box of stock characters. Sonny's weird assortment of relations who get wheeled on to the scene seem almost as much an irritation to the audience as they are to him.
That does not detract from the movie though which is all about Pacino's barnstorming performance and an Oscar winning script that just buzzes along. This is a great movie, it is full of tension and drama but also lightened with some very funny moments and we get to see a great actor giving his all.
One of the strongest attractions of this movie is Al Pacino who is as his raw, edgy best. If you liked his performance, you should check out "Serpico", "Panic in Needle Park" and "Scarecrow" which all allow him to display the same talents that he shows in "Dog Day Afternoon".
on March 14, 2002
"Dog Day Afternoon" brings to the screen a bank robbery that supposedly happened in Brooklyn on a sweltering August day in 1972. Two down-and-out losers, Sonny and Sal, terrifically played by Al Pacino and John Cazale, stroll into a bank near closing time, with the purported intention to rob it. They are accompanied by a third accomplice who has the good sense to get cold feet before the deal even beings to go down. We're like, wassup with these bozos... Sonny almost drops the rifle taking it out of the box it's gift-wrapped in as he and Sal proceed with the fell deed. It should be a piece of cake, in-and-out, right? Well, guess what: Sonny, who acts like he's about as smart as a pet rock, gets the brilliant idea to set the bank records afire, sending smoke billowing out of the exhaust system, which is promptly noted by a concerned citizen, and next thing you know, New York's Finest is swarming over the vicinity. The whole block is jammed with rubberneckers and police, and now it's a standoff: Sonny and Sal have the bank managers and the tellers hostage. Sonny knows how to play to his audience, though; he's out on the sidewalk hurling bundles of green into the crowd and almost starts a riot. We start thinking, maybe this guy is crazy like a fox. The crowd clearly loves Sonny and he's a media star on the 6 o'clock news, until it becomes clear why he pulled the robbery: he needed the money for a sex change operation for his gay lover. Ut oh... the crowd that loved Sonny because he was making New York's Finest look like idiots now despise him because he's bi-sexual. Things come to a climactic resolution in the movie's final scenes, and the ending is kind of what we expected, but the movie is great fun to watch through its various twists and turns to reach the inevitable. The major actors are uniformly terrific; so many great performances that I can't single any one out. Even the minor actors are inspired, especially Lionel Pina as the pizza man who seizes a passing moment to do his own star turn, and Penelope Allen as the head teller Sylvia, whose icy calm helps to keep everyone, including Sonny, from going berserk. The cinematography is excellent and gives the film its convincing atmosphere; we're smack in the middle of a sizzling hot day in a New York City summer and sweltering right along with the characters. This movie is one of the truly great ones from the 1970's and it gets better with age. It's a quintessential New York story.
on February 19, 2002
'Dog Day Afternoon' is a chaotic strory about two uneducated losers holding a bank up for an afternoon and evening. There is one actor here who is light years ahead of anyone else in the movie. His name is AL PACINO. For almsot two hours, he gives cinema the greatest performance it has ever seen. In a scene of overwhelming intensity, he screams at the cops and the police, "Attica! Attica! and then, "Put your guns down! Put your guns down!" The crowd cheers the criminal and the viewer can't help but be left in awe.
In another scene where a pizza deliver boy is delivering the goods for the hostages in the bank, Pacino is let loose once again. The crowd outside realizes he has loads of money in his hand. They scream for it. "You want some of this!" Pacino yells, and the runs to one side of the band and hurls a handful of money. Then he runs to the other side, hurling another load. Ladies and gentleman, here is an actor caught in a zone. An actor so awesome we can't tell if he's acting or not.
The magic that Pacino brings to the screen is irresistable, exciting, and finally, breathtaking.
on November 6, 2001
This story does a terrific job of keeping the audience's attention. So many unusual and memorable moments are displayed here from one of the bank robbers who suddenly gets " bad vibes " and luckily bails out of the robbery , to the police's , FBI's , and media's arrival , to the pizza boy scene , and to Sonny's mom arriving at the scene. (she adviced Sonny to run away even though the FBI , NYPD , and all of New York City was watching. Hilarious!) This is pretty much a depiction of Murphy's Law going into full effect for these two guys trying to rob a bank. Part of the reason why the film is intriguing is because the story makes you care about how these two guys are going to get out of this situation. It glues you to the tv. It makes you care about everyone involved with very well developed characters.
The acting is grade A+ all the way through this film. This is acting 101. "Sonny" is one of Pacino's Oscar nominated performances. Pacino has a way of keeping you fixed on him but the supporting cast more than complements him with terrific performances. (my favorite scene : Sonny's phone conversations with Leon and Angie. Perfect!) The film earned six Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and won for best original screenplay. The film , excellently , captures the feel of summertime in the city. The opening of the film , effectively , establishes the tone and the feel of the setting. The screenplay Oscar was well earned. One of my favorite films.
The film is divided into 29 chapters on the DVD.
On the DVD you don't get alot of extras here. You get actor's bios , the awards that the film won , subtitles in english , spanish , and french and the Reel Recommendation's and thats about it. The audio is in digital mono. I am going to guess that one day Warner Brothers will release a special edition of " Dog Day Afternoon " with better DVD extras. Maybe in 2005 for the film's 30th anniversary. I'm writing this in 2001. We'll have to wait and see.
P.S. Everytime I hear that Elton John song I think of this film.