Sydney Lumet with a great portfolio as a filmmaker, starting his debut with his masterpiece “12 Angry Men” in 1957, created one or two films every year afterwards, until his great film of “Serpico” in 1973. Shortly after he made another masterpiece “Dog Day Afternoon” in 1975 again with Al Pacino and just a year after another great work “Network” in 1976. Though he touches on different topics, he is the best in examination of social issues and psychological struggles of modern humans as in his above three great films. Lumet as an “actor director” was a master of pulling the best performances out of different actors whom he directed. He brought out one of the best performances from Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb in “12 Angry Men” and the best of Al Pacino in “Dog Day Afternoon” and from Peter Finch in “Network”.
Not an ordinary bank robbery:
Not only one of the first hostage taking film in cinema, “Dog Day Afternoon” is a unique one that has rarely equaled. Based on a true bank robbery in 1972 in Brooklyn by Sonny Wortzik (played by Al Pacino) and Salvatore “Sal” Naturale (played by John Cazale) the film is felt all the way very real, even the acts the bank employees taken as hostages. A more mature cooperation between Sydney Lumet and Pacino than their first work together in “Serpico”, the film depicts the reality of the lives of American people in a city like Brooklyn, where two of their residents struggling with living, attempt to steal some money for their needs. After an opening scene of the real poor neighborhood of Brooklyn in a summer heat, three robbers arrive at the bank in their car.
Sal approaches the bank manager who is sitting at his desk and on the phone pointing his rifle at, and Sonny taking his gun out of a wrapped gift box nervously. A young chap, Stevie as the third robber or their driver, who walks in with Sonny and Sal, soon gives up and leaves as he is scared. Sal is mentally disturbed looking and Sonny the mastermind is a nerve rack. The police soon is informed by the insurance salesman who works across the street, when he notices smoke coming out of the vents of the bank, from a document Sonny was burning inside.
The robbery though was planned somewhat by Sonny, it seems very spontaneous as one of the female bank teller telling him. This spontaneity is shown well by improvising act of Al Pacino as Sonny. The crowd outside who probably live a struggling life like the robbers, are supportive and cheer them, while Sonny who keeps getting in and out of the bank in negotiating talk with the police detective excites them more. Sal is the scarecrow who’s introduced to the police sergeant as a Vietnam veteran killer with killing meaning nothing to him. The whole film is charged with anxiety and anticipation and the nervous act of Sonny generalizes to the others including the police detective.
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