Dog Day Afternoon Reviews
It is hands down the greatest work of Sidney Lumet.
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.
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.
On a hot summer day in Brooklyn, New York, Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) set out to execute their plan to rob the Chase Manhattan Bank. After weeks of mulling over their plans, coordinating delivery times, casing the outside and learning the best times to attract the least amount of attention, they finally enter the bank. Sonny is at a time of extreme desperation in his life. He is in a listless marriage to his wife and two kids, and he desperately wants to rob enough money from the bank to afford his partner Leon's (Chris Sarandon) sex change operation so the two may live together full-time. Sal, the understated partner in crime, a listless man seems to have no direction in his life and is easily brought into the scheme by the promise of riches from the heist. The bank manager and teller staff agree to not interfere with the robbery, even helping the downtrodden robbers as best as they can. Thinking it will be a quick in and out affair, Sonny and Sal are rushing through the job until they realize that there is little money in the bank, as a majority of the money was taken out of the bank that same afternoon. Before they can escape, a call comes in from the police department that they have the bank surrounded. What began as a robbery quickly develops into a hostage situation as Sonny sees his plans foil all around him. Eventually, feeling sorry for the men who continuously vow not to hurt anyone, if they even could, a kinship develops between Sonny, Sal, and the bank employees. Now seeing the only way out as a jet out of the country in exchange for the safe release of hostages, Sonny unwillingly turns into a captor continuously negotiating the release of hostages and listing demands. At the depths of his own despair, Sonny prepares for the worst while hoping that he can still manage to make a life out of the mess he had before he ever stepped into the bank.
This is one of those films that you watch and you hardly realize there are any other actors in it besides Al Pacino, he steals the show that much. Within the first 10 minutes, you could see the nuance brimming over the top of Pacino's characterization of Sonny. The most incredible part of this film, which also shows the directorial prowess of Sidney Lumet was that by the 10-minute mark, the duo had already entered the bank. A film that jumps into the action so early in the film also falls victim to poor pacing, especially considering that this is a film that takes place largely in one place. The pacing was never a problem in Dog Day Afternoon; each wrenching minute that elapsed emerged the audience even deeper into the mindset of Sonny and the desperation he was experiencing. I am a huge fan of films that take place in one setting, and I never thought I would like one more than I liked 12 Angry Men, also by Sidney Lumet, (obviously it's time for me to watch even more of his films) but Dog Day Afternoon takes the crown of best one setting film, in my book anyway. One setting films are so hard to do well, oftentimes, they come off stiff or too theatre-like, but Lumet knew what he was doing behind a camera leaving audiences with the best in the genre. You feel the desperation of Pacino's portrayal in such a way that stays with you days after viewing. Dog Day Afternoon is a standout, more than earning all of its critical acclaims. What a miss for Pacino from the Academy that year!