Dog Day Afternoon Review
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All you have to do is watch a few minutes of reality TV, and you’ll be amazed by the variety of idiotic things that your fellow human beings are willing and able to do. But, of course, that’s nothing new. People have been making stupid decisions for years—and the stupid, real-life decisions of a trio of rookie bank robbers are documented in Sidney Lumet’s 1975 comic crime thriller, Dog Day Afternoon.

Based on a true story, Dog Day Afternoon depicts a bank robbery gone horribly wrong. It once seemed like a no-brainer for Sonny (Al Pacino)—just a quick in-and-out. But the problems begin to arise even before the three would-be bank robbers can get their hands on any cash—when Stevie (Gary Springer) decides that he just isn’t cut out for bank robbery, running from the bank instead of pulling his gun.

Unfortunately for Sonny and his remaining partner, Sal (John Cazale), it’s all downhill from there. And instead of getting away with the money, they find themselves trapped inside the bank with a bunch of tellers and very little cash as a media frenzy builds outside.

No matter how many crime thrillers you’ve seen before, you’ll still be surprised by Dog Day Afternoon. Smart and suspenseful—and often unexpectedly hilarious—it seems to throw a constant barrage of curveballs. You’ll never know who will arrive on the scene or what the characters will do next—from the tough tellers to the unorganized cops, from the boisterous spectators to the gutsy reporters.

At the center of it all is the film’s greatest wild card: Sonny. As his seemingly fool-proof plan continues to unravel and he becomes more and more desperate, the charismatic ring leader does the only thing he can: he plays it all by ear. He demands, he pleads, and he bargains with the police officers surrounding the building. He talks to the media—and to his growing audience. And, no matter how idiotic his plan may have been, as he struggles to figure out how to get out of the situation unscathed, you’ll be mesmerized by the character—and by Pacino’s performance.

The longer the story plays out, the wilder and crazier and more outrageous it becomes. You’ll be drawn to this quirky bunch of characters and to the mix of comedy and drama that ensues, but you’ll also be held in suspense as you wait it out with the crowd. And although the story drags in a couple of places, you’ll still be eager to find out how it will all play out for Sonny and Sal.

The story behind Dog Day Afternoon is one that simply had to be told. Thanks to the talented cast and crew (and Oscar-winning screenwriter Frank Pierson), it’s told remarkably well. And it all goes to show—yet again—that truth is often so much stranger than fiction.

DVD Review:
Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon is now available as a part of the Best of Warner Bros. 20 Film Collection: Thrillers. Each film in the collection comes with its own special features—though Dog Day Afternoon includes just a trailer and a commentary track by Lumet. But, special features aside, there are 20 very good reasons to buy this collection. Included in the set are classics like The Public Enemy, Strangers on a Train, and North by Northwest. You’ll also find more recent favorites like Goodfellas, The Shawshank Redemption, The Dark Knight, Inception, and The Town. The collection’s only real drawback? It’s only available in DVD. But it’s still a great way to add 20 remarkable thrillers to your movie collection.

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