Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Director Sidney Lumet’s persuasive recreation of a real-life hostage incident is centred around Al Pacino’s touching performance as a comically inept bank robber.

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“A film made brilliant by its deeply seen characters, in a plot that could have obviously been cheapened and exploited but is always human and true.”
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 2008

This account of a bungled bank robbery that degenerates into a hostage situation is an illustration of how real life can offer deeper tragedy and absurdity than most fiction. Screenwriter Frank Pierson won the film’s only Oscar for sticking to the substance of events that unfolded in Brooklyn in 1972, while also bringing out the comedy and pathos as Al Pacino’s stressed debut criminal Sonny gets in way over his head in a tense stand-off with armed police.

The revelation that he’s out to raise the fees for his boyfriend’s sex-change operation locates the story at a time of changing cultural values, yet the film’s focus on flawed individuals driven by their affections into acts of desperation is timeless.

Philadelphia-born Sidney Lumet was the maestro of New York location work, primarily in crime dramas Serpico (1973), Prince of the City (1981) and Q&A (1990).

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