Wednesday, February 1, 2012
100 Movies - No. 30: Dog Day Afternoon
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.
If you like Dog Day Afternoon:
As I mentioned, good heist movies are something I find entertaining. One of my favorites from recent years is Inside Man, starring Denzel Washington and Clive Owen. The story uses some of the same elements, but has a more elegant resolution. It's one I return to often.
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