Thursday, 15 May 2014

Film Favourites: Dog Day Afternoon

Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon

Bar The Godfather, Dog Day Afternoon is my favourite Al Pacino movie. Based on a true story, you know the premise before you even begin watching it: bank robbery gone spectacularly wrong and turned into a media circus. It's a slow paced film, but rather than being dull it builds up a wonderful sense of tension that you could cut with a knife it's so thick.

It begins as an ordinary enough day on a hot afternoon in Brooklyn, New York. Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) are shown nervously entering a bank and things are against them almost immediately: the money has already been collected so the bank only has a couple of hundred dollars. And when the cops show up, Sonny inadvertently ends up with a hostage situation on his hands. Al Pacino has never been on better form than he is playing Sonny, and it always surprises me how he didn't win the Academy Award for his performance because it's never been so well deserved (sorry Jack).

Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon
Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon
Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon

This isn't just a simple heist movie, it has so many more layers to it than that. Sonny and Sal aren't professional thieves wanting to get rich quick: they have very little idea what they're actually doing, Sonny just wants enough money so that his "wife" can have the sex change operation she longs for. It's worth mentioning that Dog Day Afternoon was way ahead of the curve for the way it treated both a gay and trans* story line with both realism and tenderness (something modern entertainment still misses a lot of the time). When Leon (Sonny's partner) is introduced to the scene, there's background giggles from the police officers and utterances of "he's a queer?". But rather than sensationalise this aspect of the story, it's simply presented as a fact and Sonny and Leon's telephone call is one of the most emotional scenes in the entire film.

It's also worth mentioning John Cazale's performance as Sal, which is equally as engaging as Pacino but largely overlooked. He's magnetising with his childlike innocence and utter loyalty to Sonny, and inadvertently provides most of the humour of the film with his comments (like wanting to escape to the "country" Wyoming).

Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon
Al Pacino and John Cazale in Dog Day Afternoon
John Cazale in Dog Day Afternoon
Dog Day Afternoon
Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon
(Screencaps taken by myself from my DVD)

3 comments

  1. This movie sounds great! I don't usually go for 1970s as I stick to a bit earlier but I like the bank robber with a purpose storyline. I'll have to add this to my to watch list!
    Amia

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  2. I've never heard of this but it looks really good! I might have to watch Godfather first though after the brief mention at the beginning :D xxx

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  3. I love this movie. Every time I even think about it I start sweating. The heat itself is a character, I think.

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