Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Directed by Sidney Lumet: a jpoc movie review
Pacino at his best
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Main Cast
Al Pacino Sonny
Penelope Allen Sylvia
John Cazale Sal
Sully Boyar Mulvaney
James Broderick (I) Sheldon
Charles Durning Moretti
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viewing notes
I first saw this movie with at the North Staffs Poly Film Theatre when it was first on release.
Eight out of ten.
the jpoc review
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".