A man robs a bank to pay for his lover's sex change operation and inadvertently turns it into a hostage situation and a media circus.
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Directed by Sidney Lumet
Written by Frank Pierson
Starring Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Durning, Chris Sarandon, Carol Kane, Sully Boyar, Amy Levitt, Marcia Jean Kurtz,
Beulah Garrick, James Broderick, Lance Henriksen, Susan Peretz
Based on a magazine article by P.F. Kluge and Thomas Moore
Oscar Wins - Best Original Screenplay
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Actor (Al Pacino),
Best Supporting Actor (Chris Sarandon), Best Director,
Best Film Editing
Dog Day Afternoon is a powder keg waiting to explode with rising tensions and inevitable outcomes. It's ranked alongside the greatest films of all time and stands out among Al Pacino's thoroughly impressive resumé as the heist movie that set the bar. The best thing about the film is the characters, all of whom are morally grey. Sonny (Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) are not bad people. They're just trapped in a bad situation that only gets worse the longer they wait. Sidney Lumet directs this tense crime drama that is not only extremely progressive for its depiction of transsexuals but succeeds in blending genre tropes to create a cinematic experience that is like no other.
The entire film takes place in a bank on a hot day, as two guys attempt to rob it on the day that all the money is shipped out. From there, these two guys just keep making worse decisions once the police show up. There are moments in this film that are purely comedic, like when Sonny attempts to talk to his frantic wife on the phone. It's amazing to me that there can be little gems of comedy in such a tense dramatic film. Pacino and Cazale are both fantastic, but I particularly enjoyed Charles Durning's performance as the agitated cop Moretti who tries to keep the situation from turning into an even bigger mess. What I loved most about the film is how Lumet portrayed the media. His take on sensationalism was brilliant, especially how the media helped turn these bank robbers into folk heroes like Bonnie and Clyde.
Dog Day Afternoon is a unique piece of film history that manages to be both unpredictable in its characters and unavoidable in its conclusion thanks to superb writing and unforgettable characters. It's an unapologetic slap in the face to yellow journalism and uses its bank robber scenario to show the vulnerability in all of us that keeps us from becoming monsters. It's a fantastic work of genius that's earned every bit of praise it's gotten since its release.