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 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 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 December 13, 2000
Based on a true story of a botched Brooklyn bank robbery heist, "Dog Day Afternoon" is a suspenseful, attention-grabbing account of a young, innocent looking man named Sonny (Pacino), who attempts to rob a bank to pay for his boyfriend/lover's (Chris Sarandon) sex-change operation. One of the film's most chilling scenes occurs at the beginning, where Sonny enters the bank with his two cronies Sal (Jon Cazale) and Sonny's boyfriend (Sarandon) with a large, rectangular gift box, supposedly containing flowers. After presenting the teller with a withdrawal slip, Sonny calmly steps away from the counter, nervously, hurriedly opens the box, pulls out a rifle and shouts "Allright, freeze, nobody move!". His partner Sal also points an automatic gun at the bank manager (Sully Boyar), and the tone of the movie is set. Sonny then lets his boyfriend go when he is unable to go through with Sonny's plans. After what appears to be a clean getaway, someone outside the bank from across the street sees smoke appearing from the bank's ventilator, at which time Sonny attempts to burn up the account ledger. The police and the FBI are informed about the heist, and what follows is a some two-hour hostage of everyone inside the bank. In the meantime, Sonny is attempting to negotiate with the chief of police (Charles Durning) and the head of the FBI (James Broderick) to avoid any kind of possible tragedy regarding the bank's employees. Rather than give the ending of the movie away, I suggest you buy "Dog Day Afternoon" and see for yourself. The VHS version contains added bonus footage of cast and film staff interviews, so you're in for a real treat here!
on December 12, 2000
"Dog Day Afternoon" still feels fresh to me. Maybe because Lumet packed so much talent and so many unforgettable moments into it. Why should you watch it?
It's the best Pacino has ever been. (I thought the Oscar belonged to him and not to Nicholson that year.) Want to see how far into a character a good actor can delve? Watch his face after he hangs up the phone from talking to his wife (no, not Chris Sarandon -- the other wife).
It's not only the late John Cazale in another of his brilliant 70s performances, but it's Pacino and Cazale together again after the two "Godfathers."
It's the quintessential New York location movie.
Sarandon's near-monologue in the barber shop is so convincing, you'll think, "No way was this guy ever married to Susan!"
Sully Boyar's naturalistic approach to his role of the bank manager might have you thinking, if you've never seen him before, that he's not a professional actor.
James Broderick's performance as the FBI agent is a masterpiece of iceberg acting (in which 90% of what's going on is beneath the surface, making the 10% you do see that much more powerful).
Pacino again, this time -- well, not to give anything away -- let's just say the look on his face the last time he sees the bank staff.
Oh, so much more! I guess I'll quit here with two final words. "Attica! Attica!"
on November 20, 2000
This is one of those rare films that, having never seen before, I would come across one lazy Sunday afternoon of channel surfing, and the cinematic imagery on screen strangely grasps my attention instead of instantly propelling me to move on and find a football game or something. I guess it's kinda comparable to a bad traffic accident; you know it's wrong to gawk, but you just can't look away.
So what makes this true story of a disheveled loaf (Al Pachino), who decides to alleviate some of his more bizarre economic needs by taking a stab at the bank-robbing profession, such an intriguing mess? For one, the character development provides the viewer with many clever personality sketches of unique and involving individuals as opposed to typical, standard formula, two-dimensional stereotypes. There are no caricature cutouts here. In addition, there's the facetious irony of the NYPD and the FBI being out-witted by this hapless duo for most of the day, and it doesn't help law enforcement any that an on-looking crowd is loving every minute of it. You will never find two dumber criminals than Sonny and his mental-midget for a partner, Sal. Aside from devising no escape or back-up plan for the robbery, they show their ineptitude by negotiating ludicrous terms with the police. Sonny tells his partner that they need to fly out of the country. Sal suggests Wyoming. After discovering that Wyoming is not a country, they settle on Algeria of all places. The freak show reminds you of that Southwest Airlines commercial with the slogan "Want to get away?"
The movie seems to be no more than a retelling of that afternoon's events, but it does so in a very compelling way and without taking sides or manipulating the viewer's emotions. At the end we may feel some sympathy for the captors, but the film keeps us at enough distance so that we may soon shrug it off and objectively realize that what becomes of criminals, no matter how incompetent or simple minded, is typically what they deserve.
on October 2, 2001
Many say its a terrible movie without a point. I say its the best picture of 1975. Al pacino gives his greatest performance ever. On a hot Brooklyn afternoon, two optimistic losers(Al Pacino and John Cazale)set out to rob a bank. Sonny(Pacino)is the mastermind, Sal(Cazale)is the follower, and disaster is the result. Because the cops, crowds and even the pizza man have arrived, the wellplanned heist is now a circus. The film stole 6 academy award nominations including best picture, director, and actor.. Its a shame the academy failed to even notice the performance that was given by Charles Durning. He gave the best supporting role of 1975. The street scenes are brilliant. The cinematography is riveting. The robbery should have taken 10 minutes. 4 hours later, the bank was like a circus sideshow. 8 hours later, it was the hottest thing on live TV. 12 hours later, it was all history. And its all true.
on December 12, 1999
I would have to agree with everyone in here that this is one of Pacino's best films. I think that an idea for a bank robbery film is excellent. Also to my surprise this movie was based on a true story and that kind of surprised me a tiny bit because I thought to myself "how could anyone have lasted that long in a bank". Another good part to this movie was Sonny's (Pacino) intellegence through the movie for example the part where they were about to sound the alarm and he stopped them that was amazing and the way he was able to keep making deals with the police so he could have what he wanted. I thought that was fabulous. The only better Pacino movie that I have seen than this would have to be Godfather part 1.