Starring: Al Pacino, John Cazale, Penelope Allen
Director: Sidney Lumet
Sonny (Pacino) and Sal (Cazale) are two desperate men who have decided to rob a bank in the heat of a 70’s Summer in Brooklyn, to pay for a sex change operation for Sonny’s partner. But from the start, things go wrong: one of their co-conspirators doesn’t show up, the police are alerted to the robbery and the bank is surrounded. There’s no way out. But as Sonny negotiates loudly with the police outside, a crowd gathers, and soon what’s started as a robbery has turned into a crowd rooting for the underdog.
Though it takes the classic heist gone wrong plot line, this isn’t an ordinary genre film. And that’s partly because it’s based on real events, and is adapted from a newspaper article and also some interviews with the people involved.
It’s also because of the tone of the film. As the film progresses, and we get to know Sonny and Sal, we understand that they’re pretty hopeless characters to begin with, and yet they’re also really likable. Their robbery becomes an act of defiance. But through knowing their stories and the people connected with them, who the police bring in to negotiate with them, we get to know their sad and in some ways tragic backgrounds. There’s a sense of humour in this film, but there’s also a lot of drama, and even melodrama.
There’s also something about this film that makes it a bit of a New York film, a statement about the city and it’s citizens. Some people put it up there with Woody Allen and other film makers whose films are such love letters to that beloved, crazy city. I think that that is definitely true as well.
But at it’s core, it’s a human story. I think all of us at some time want to fit in, want to make it, but can’t. This film speaks to that part of us that cheers on the underdog, but also knows that the nail that sticks out gets hammered. In the 70’s, there are a lot of films that question who the good guys really are, the cops or the robbers? The authority or those who challenge it? And this film speaks to that counter culture. Al Pacino has so much life and passion in this film, like and angry flame, but he’s also so fragile. And so are the lives around him. This film is a bit of a riot, with all that that implies: life, passion, colour, melodrama, crowds in the streets, but also violence and darkness too. A really interesting film.
See It If: a must for all Pacino fans, and of course, those who loves films about New York. This is an emotional film, with laughs, sadness and a lot of drama, and is always a fascinating ride.