Movie Review: Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Bank robbery. Doesn’t matter what cause you are doing it for, it’s always a bad idea. No matter how desperately a person might need the money, he or she should not attempt to rob a bank… EVER! It’s a bad idea that has so much more risk than reward.

Disclaimer: I know this thing is based on a true story, but I will not base my review on how perfectly accurate to the real situation it may or may not be, but I will instead judge it as a movie… which it is. Disclaimer over.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Dog Day Afternoon”.

Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale, RIP) and two men who walk into a bank during a hot summer afternoon to rob it. And what was supposed to be a simple bank robbery soon turns into a tense and complicated hostage situation. The plot in “Dog Day Afternoon” is pretty great, not just because of my love for heist films, but because it doesn’t just present it in the typical black and white cops vs. robbers way. The situation and the motivations behind it are much more grey than in other movies, and that’s what I loved about the plot. You see every little angle of it. It’s rare to see such a nuanced plot in bank robbery/heist movies that I found it quite refreshing. The plotis really a tense drama that managed to hold my interest from start to finish.

The characters, like the plot, are very layered and have plenty of nuance to them which makes them really interesting to watch. Al Pacino is fantastic as Sonny. And what I really like about his character is that he osn’t jsut your typical asshole bank robber, he’s just a man who does this for “good reasons”. By “good reasons” I don’t mean that bank robbery is okay (read the intro again), but that his motivations isn’t just to get rich, but he has a clear motivation that I can understand/get behind. John Cazale is great as Sal, the man that is helping Pacino rob the bank. We also get James Broderick (RIP) as an FBI agent that is there to negotiate with Pacino/Cazale, and he’s great. We have Chalres Durning (RIP) as a cop that tries to negotiate with Pacino/Cazale, and he’s great. We get Chris Sarandon as someone that is close to Pacino’s character, and he’s great. We even get a brief, but still welcome, appearance from Lance Henriksen who plays anotehr FBI agent and he is really good here. The entire cast is great in this movie, and all the characters are great.

What is interesting about the music in this movie is that there is none. Okay, I kind of lied there, there is a song at the beginning of the movie to sort of establish the city and such. But other than that there is nothing. No score, no other licensed tracks… jack fucking shit. And while I do love me some good music in a movie, I think that the lack of it here actually kind of works to it’s advantage. I try to imagine the scenes in my head with music, and I can’t… does not compute. This movie has no music in it, and I really liked that about it.

This movie was directed by Sidney Lumet (RIP) and I think he did a pretty damn great job. The framing is great and his direction here is very tense and engaging.  I felt like I was stuck in this shitshow with the characters, and that is proof of great directing. What makes that even mroe interesting is that there is barely any violence in the movie. As a matter of fact, there is almost no violence in it at all. Kind of refreshing to see that in a crime movie for once.

This movie has been very well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 95% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it doesn’t even exist (how dareth thou, Metacritic?). Roger Ebert gave it 4/4 stars and put it on his “Great Movies” list. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8,0/10 and is ranked #243 on the “Top 250” list. The movie also won 1 Oscar in the category of Best original screenplay. It also got an additional 5 nominations in the categories of Best picture, Best actor (Pacino), Best supporting actor (Sarandon), Best director, and Best film editing. 

“Dog Day Afternoon” is an incredibly nuanced bank robber drama that engaged me from start to finish. It has a great plot, great performances, no music (which works for the movie), and great directing. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Dog Day Afternoon” is a 9,89/10. This means that is gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Dog Day Afternoon” is now completed.

They don’t make movies like this anymore… quite sad, really.

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