Al Pacino kills it in this movie.
Al Pacino plays Sonny, a down on his luck kind of guy who feels pulled in eighty different directions and who decides his best course of action is to rob a bank. Of course, his plans go awry and his “perfect” robbery quickly turns into a siege, where Sonny and his hostages are holed up inside the bank, and the media descends like a pack of vultures upon the story. It’s based off a real-life story, which is one of these stories that makes you agree with the old saying, “Truth is stranger than fiction”.
As Sonny’s best laid plans fall all apart, the story becomes more and more bizarre, when the police discover one of the reasons Sonny needs the money is to pay for his lover/wife’s sex-change operation to turn from male to female. Nevermind that Sonny’s already married with children to another lady, and the news media can do nothing but air the more sordid details of Sonny’s life non-stop.
Al Pacino used to not just play himself, a fact I’ve lamented on this blog several times. The older he gets, the more it seems like Pacino just plays himself over again, which is sadder when you look at his early body of work. This is a far different character from any he had previously played, and he does it with a large amount of skill. He manages to make Sonny, who’s pretty self-absorbed and who we see in moments of intense, trying stress, fairly likeable to the audience and more importantly, easily relatable to the audience at large, which necessarily isn’t the easiest task given some of the things that go on in Sonny’s life – it would be easy to dismiss him at large as a “freak” were it not for Pacino’s handle on Sonny.
In fact, Pacino’s scene where he runs outside the bank and leads the crowd in a chant of “Attica! Attica! Attica!” is classic and should be remembered as such.
The most interesting thing about Dog Day Afternoon to me is how it relates in the present day. Released in 1975, this is pre-Perez Hilton, pre-TMZ and before any of this constant barrage of paparazzi and entertainment reporting on what Britney Spears had to drink at Starbucks yesterday. I think it’s harder for this film to have an impact nowadays because of the constant stream of information we have going on from celebrities to robberies to whatever, when this was such a newsworthy and bizarre story to so many people. What was once bizarre is today commonplace, and it’s a little interesting to see the messages contained in a 1975 film about the media and this story.
It’s a very well made movie but lacking the punch it had in the ’70’s. The changing times have changed what Dog Day Afternoon means to a whole new generation, I suppose.