Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dog Day Afternoon. A-

If the motives for the robbery had been different, or all together left out, then 'Dog Day Afternoon' (which refers to the dog days of summer in the sweltering New York City) would have been a perfect movie. But as it turns out, the film is based off a true story, so it has to present to us the facts. Even so, as far as pure moviemaking goes, it's an absolute gem. Master director Sidney Lumet guides Al Pacino, who plays Sonny, a young man whose life is far more messed up than you might think. He begins the movie with two partners, preparing to rob a bank. One of them chickens out at the last minute, setting up for a cataclysmic turn of events for Sonny. According to the tag-line, it should have taken 12 minutes. Hours later it was a media circus. THen it became history. And it's all true. It's a fascinating movie, despite the fact that the setup is fairly generic. Lumet and screenwriter Frank Pierson make it seem like a complete original. Al Pacino, fresh off his role in 'The Godfather Part II,' proves why he's one of our finest actors. Compare the performances in 'The Godfather' and this. They're completely different, and completely brilliant. Pacino hardly even seems like the same person if you watch him in the two films. And yet he pulls of both of them with utter conviction. Pacino never seems to play the same character twice (with the exception of his recent disasters, '88 Minutes' and 'Righteous Kill'). One of the reasons that makes this work so well whereas a movie like Spacey's futile 'Albino Alligator' does not is because of the script. Holdup flicks require a substantial amount of dynamite dialogue, and Frank Pierson's script does exactly that. It's sharp, interesting, and provocative. In 'Alligator,' the dialogue was cheesy and just stupid. Sidney Lumet, who recently made the terrific 'Before the Devil Knows You're Dead,' has made about five or six great movies in his long career. You can't really talk about them with mentioning 'Dog Day Afternoon.'

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