Plot – Three amateur bank robbers plan to hold up a bank. A nice simple robbery: Walk-in, take the money, and run. Unfortunately, the supposedly uncomplicated heist suddenly becomes a bizarre nightmare as everything that could go wrong does – Dog Day Afternoon.
Plot – Sidney Lumet
Released – 1975
Containing a superb level characterisation and a compelling plot, Dog Day Afternoon is based (though not entirely follows) on a real-life event that happened a couple of years before they made the film. This gem of a film is essentially about Vietnam War veterans, Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) & Sal (John Cazale) whose mutual anti-establishment sentiment and unwillingness to go along with the notion that you should be happy to work hard for a meagre amount of money gives them the idea to rob a bank. Once this robbery doesn’t go to plan, the vast majority of the film taking place during the standoff between the robbers and the police.
One of the more surprising aspects of the plot is Sonny’s reason for wanting more money. He’s a bi-sexual male trying to raise enough to pay for his boyfriend to have a sex change operation, something you might see in modern crime drama’s but more of a surprise for a film from the mid-’70s, though I for one found this to be an interesting twist that further explained why Sonny was driven to such drastic action given the attitudes towards non-heterosexuals at the time.
Dog Day Afternoon is impressive on so many levels, the strongest of which is the acting. Pacino is a delight as Sonny. Everything from his semi-improvisational dialogue, the jittery body language combines to create one of his most memorable screen characters. Next up you have the writing, which throughout the entire film, gives each character enough time to develop in both a detailed and wholly believable way while also finding time to weave in a healthy dose of social commentary. Lumet’s direction is also worthy of praise, His skill also enabled the plot to entwine moments of tension with those of despair, joy and even some absurd humour to help to keep the movie moving along at a brisk pace without losing the claustrophobic nature of the stand-off.
The entire film is a joy to watch. Edgy and exciting in equal measure, this is gritty making at its finest, with a social commentary that is as true today as it was when it first came out and helping to cement Pacino as one of the most versatile and talented actors in history.