Dog Day Afternoon

Sidney Lumet, USA, 1975, 130 minutes

These days, the story of a bungled bank robbery are pretty common but Dog Day Afternoon, based on a true story, was perhaps one of the first to be done well.

Sidney Lumetís talent for making films set in one location, lacking a musical score and heavily reliant on brilliant script writing and incredible acting, is once again on show here. Al Pacino was in his prime playing Sonny, the ďbrainsĒ behind the botched operation. Sonny holds up a bank with his friend Sal in order to steal money for his gay loverís sex change operation. Needless to say, the robbery does not go to plan and ends up in a hostage situation surrounded by a myriad of policemen which subsequently turns into a media frenzy. Homosexuality, anti-establishment sentiment, the media phenomenon, Stockholm syndrome (as Sonnyís hostages grow to sympathise with their captor) are all dealt with and brought together by Lumetís steady directorial hand, and a remarkable performance from Pacino. Pacino is well supported by John Cazale and Charles Durning as his partner in crime and the negotiating policeman.

A drama with its effectiveness and watchability enhanced by the fact that it is all true, Dog Day Afternoon is a very fine film indeed.

Review by Steph Wright
Taken from EUFS Programme 2003

Based on a true story, Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon tells the tale of Sonny (Al Pacino, in one of his greatest performances) and Sal (John Cazale) and their attempt at robbing the First Savings Bank of Brooklyn. Everything is going fine until they discover that there is very little money in the bank and that the entire city police force is waiting outside for them (with lots of guns). They must bargain their way out, using the bank staff as hostages. By this time they're pretty friendly with the staff and feel a bit bad about threatening to kill them...

Dog Day Afternoon comes from a time when a film's main objective wasn't to be glossy and reality-free. Filmed documentary-style, the movie changes pace and tone quickly and frequently, darting from hilarious character comedy (robbing a bank is embarrassing) to '70s social comment, from high speed thriller to upsetting tragedy. This is one hell of an achievement for Lumet and editor Dede Allen.

One of the great films of the seventies and an entry in my personal top ten ever, Dog Day Afternoon shouldn't be missed. I'm really not kidding - go and see it!

Review by Danny Carr
Taken from EUFS Programme 1993-94