Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Dog Day Afternoon (1975), directed by Sidney Lumet.

One of the admirable things about 1970s movies is the film-makers' love for New York City during that stressed, unglamorous decade. Tough, gritty, mean streets, hard times, garbage, crime and corruption: they still loved it, and loved using real people and locations.

This is a dark, satirical tragicomedy with Al Pacino and John Cazale, together again, as hapless bank robbers. The police can't run a siege very well and the media and bystanders are loving it. Seduced by the attention, Pacino puts on a little revolutionary street theater ("Attica!") and even the hostages start having a good time.

The second half becomes more episodic with material not directly related to the robbery. We have Pacino's mother, his wife, his other "wife", and a medical emergency for the bank manager. We find the whole point of the robbery was to finance a sex change operation for "Leon" (Chris Sarandon). The cops snicker over this, but everyone else seems beyond surprise.

In one sense it's the little guy vs The System, but on the other hand, consider the mob of spectators. A mob is a dangerous animal: they love you, they hate you.

Pacino has an awkward, despairing intensity. Watch him after it's all over: defeated, grieving, no longer special, practically ignored, just another prisoner.

Cazale only made 5 films, but he patented this mute, depressed loser persona. All of his films were top notch. ("They keep sayin' two homosexuals. I am not a homosexual. I want you to stop them saying that. Stop.")

Lance Henriksen is the FBI triggerman at the end.

Based on a true story, they say. Available on Blu-ray.