Screengrab: Pacino, heat and Palookaville


Richard Lutz highlights the TV film of the week.


Whew. It’s hot. It’s the dog days of August. Even murky, cloudy, drizzly Old Blighty bakes.

So, what better movie to switch on to than Dog Day Afternoon (Thursdsu, Sky Cinema Select, 16.35)?

It’s Brooklyn, it’s 1972, it’s Al Pacino burning up as inept bank robber Sonny Wortznik, who needs to raid a bank on Avenue P. You don’t know Avenue P in the nowhere of lower Brooklyn? It’s Palookaville, back of Schlumptown, and Sonny and his equally inept sidekick Sal (one of actor John Cazale’s last roles before his death) screw things up badly as the stick-up turns into a baking hot siege.

Nearly everyone turns out to be a schmuck: The criminals, the cops, the FBI, even the rubberneckers outside this no count bank on Avenue P who slowly hail Sonny as a counter culture hero as he awaits his fate.

Great performances from Pacino and Cazale (Meryl Streep’s first husband in real life) and probably director Sidney Lumet’s best film. And he made some corkers too, such as Network, 12 Angry Men and Serpico.

But it’s Pacino who steals it. He’s manic. His Sonny is hilarious, out of control, pathetic and likeable as one of the biggest lovable losers to fill the screen. And when the story goes south and the reason for Sonny’s bank job is made apparent, Al is onto a winner.

Dog Day Afternoon won an Oscar for best screenplay. Funny that, because it’s based on a real story. The actual Sonny saw the Pacino film while in prison and gave it a so-so qualified thumbs up. For me, it’s one of the best around. 

3 thoughts on “Screengrab: Pacino, heat and Palookaville

  1. For fans of John Cazale, check out the documentary, ‘I Knew it Was You’. No one except James Dean had a better run of films in a too short career: Godfather I and II (as Fredo), The Conversation, Deerhunter, and Dog Day Afternoon.

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