Dog Day Afternoon Reviews
We first get a glimpse of how amateurish these criminals are when one of the three bails early on in the robbery, which is a comical moment. We also smile at Pacino's handling of the situation. He realizes the importance of the hostages he suddenly finds himself holding, but far from being heavy-handed, he tries to be decent with them. He whips the crowd up into an anti-establishment frenzy by shouting "Attica!", throwing wads of money into the air, and paying for pizza delivery. He gets into a shouting match with a police sergeant (Charles Durning). He talks to his wife, mother, and transgender lover (Chris Sarandon), and each conversation is touched with pathos, and fantastic. To his mother he says "I'm a fuck-up and I'm an outcast. If you get near me you're gonna get it. You're gonna get fucked over and fucked out." It's the outcast underdog that we find ourselves rooting for.
I love the simple acceptance of his sexuality, which is incidental and doesn't devolve into some type of stereotype - well ahead of its time. Director Sidney Lumet shows the seamy side of New York, but at the same time, its humanity. The characters are blunt, but understanding of one another when they simply say what they want. The relationships in this tense stand-off are fascinating.
I also liked how Lumet gets us into the story immediately. We learn the backstories and characters of the criminals, including Pacino's henchman (John Cazale) gradually, and in little moments, such as finding out he fears their escape plan because he's never been on an airplane before. The film works as both a hostage drama and as a character study. It may be a teeny bit too long at 125 minutes, but has held up well over the years, and is definitely worth watching.
I have always perceived this movie as a heavy social commentary tale. The first half turns out to be rather funny. Two bank robbers run into some outrageous hiccups while robbing the bank. An accomplice backed out in the last minute. One bank robber tries to be smart and burns a register in a bin. The smoke attracts a passer-by, risking being caught. After going through all the trouble, the bank vault is actually left with a small sum of money only. Then, without a clue, they are on national TV, surrounded by police, TV media reporters, a huge crowd and ... gay supporters. Al Pacino's character is a bisexual who is married to a chubby woman with two kids and has a guy he claims to be his wife. He robs the bank for his sex change operation. It is afterall a comedy?
Not really. The second half sees the movie declines into darker depths. It ends in a tragedy. I really hope the movie will end with a lighter note. It feels unbalanced.
Based on true events so I kind of cannot complain much.
Deserves a re-watch and probably a buy.
'Dog Day Afternoon' tells an unbelievable true story and, although its first half is definitely stronger than its second, it succeeds thanks to a great script along with a memorable performance by Al Pacino as the unusual bank robber.
It is hands down the greatest work of Sidney Lumet.
Part of the intent of the film was to display how people change when they are in the spotlight. Sonny turns into a raving "hero" demanding outlandish requests in exchange for the hostages and performing for the people in the streets. The pizza man dances for the crowd and the head teller refuses to leave her girls because her and the others are getting so much attention. It's interesting to see them transform. I also thought it was fascinating how it pushed such liberal themes in a time period that largely rejected them, with some of the major characters being homosexual and transgender people.
Al Pacino's character is dynamic and we slowly learn about him as the robbery progresses. First that he has a wife, then that he has a gay lover, then that he's married to both and his mistress needs a sex change and that he has a troubled relationship with his mother. His motives for the robbery give insight into who he was and what his priorities are. And Pacino does a good job of not playing to homosexual stereotypes and delivering a character who is gay and different, but not flamboyant. But I didn't like how gross and unappealing all the characters become. Aesthetically, the film is poor. It's a boring, blank bank with unattractive, stressed out characters.
The film's central issue is that is largely a tiring bore. It is tense at the beginning, but 30 minutes in the tension has broken and it's exhausting to watch Pacino and the cops constantly go back and forth. As a bank robbery, it is really dry. It consistently brings new characters into the story, such as his lover, his wife, his mother to further develop him. The conclusion was also pretty satisfying where the police trick his friend, shoot him in the head and clear the bus. I get why Dog Day Afternoon is relevant because of its themes and unique central character, but I can only take so much of Al Pacino pacing around sweating, yelling constantly.