“Criminals become celebrities these days because the media gives them the chance to be. Many of the fashionable crimes are committed as publicity stunts and a complex relationship grows up among the criminals, their victims, the police, and the press. Knowing they’re on TV, hostages comb their hair and killers say the things they’ve learned on the news,” said by the greatest film critic Roger Ebert.
That’s the point of Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon; it’s based on an actual bank robbery that happened in the 70’s in New York City. A man robs a bank to pay for his lover’s operation; it turns into a hostage situation and a media circus. Starring Al Pacino and John Cazale, directed by Sidney Lumet and written by Frank Pierson.
If you’ve never watched any of Sidney Lumet’s movies then I strongly suggest that you do; Lumet is considered as one of the greatest filmmakers in history of modern classic cinema. He directed 12 Angry Men (1957) which is just pure art and a movie that still teaches camera shooting techniques till this day.
Sonny (Al Pacino) and his partner, Sal (John Cazale), hit the bank at closing time; a third partner was involved but gets cold feet and leaves early. The robbery was supposed to be a 30 minutes operation, taking the money and simply leaving, but the stick-up is discovered, the bank is surrounded and TV cameras are lined across the bank. Sonny is in the position of holding hostages and Sal is willing to shoot them.
Lumet’s film is a study of an intriguing character: Sonny, the bank robber who takes charge, presented as a complex man. He fought in Vietnam, running the robbery to pay for his homosexual lover to have a sex change operation, and married to a woman with three kids. The beauty of Dog Day Afternoon that Sonny’s character is not explained but rather presented throughout the movie. He becomes one of the most interesting modern movie characters.
There are moments when the film is close to the clichés of old gangster movies, but Lumet is exploring these clichés not only using them. A huge crowd is drawn to the crime scene; at first, Sonny is their hero until it becomes known that he’s a bisexual, the crowd turns against him and within a short time gay supporters turn up to cheer him. The movie has a twisted sense of humor; Lumet is best known for drawing logical relationships between characters in his movies.
The film won an Oscar for best writing and was nominated for 5 others. You won’t regret watching Dog Day Afternoon; it’s a great modern classic movie and it’s ranked #246 on IMDB’s top 250 of all time. Dog Day Afternoon is a definite 4/5.