Written By Luke Barnes
Dog Day Afternoon is a crime film directed by Sidney Lumet. The plot follows a failed bank robbery carried out by Sunny Wortzik (Al Pacino), and the following hostage crisis. The film is based on the real-life experiences of John Wojtowicz.
This film is regarded by many as a classic, and in some ways I can see that.
I think the performance from Pacino is sublime, he makes what could have easily just been a tired bank robber bad guy role, or generic antihero, feel layered and human. Pacino’s Sunny is not just likeable, he morphs into more than that almost becoming a Robin Hood figure. When the tale reaches its inevitable end, you feel sad as you wanted him to succeed, and both of those emotions are a result of Pacino’s near perfect performance.
Moreover, this film does a lot for transgender representation, decades ahead of the curve. Though some might not like it when I bring up social political ideas in my reviews of old films, I will anyway. I think the trans representation here deserves praise, as it treats the character with dignity and agency, rather than turning them into a cliché or a punchline.
My issue with this film though that stops it from getting full marks is that the film does have some noticeable pacing issues. There are sections inside the bank that drag on, and it is a shame as these scenes for the most part provide terrific character work, but there are moments when you are left wishing something would happen, or that the film would cut back to what is going on outside.
Moreover, before I made a comparison to Robin Hood with this film and I don’t view that entirely as a positive. The idea of Robin Hood works, but as the narrative follows this approach it becomes overly simplistic to a degree, the misguided but doing it for the right reasons bank robber and the evil police feel a little on the nose, and obvious and the film could have benefited from focusing more on the grey neutral ground, within and also binding the two characters.
Overall, a reverting heist film with a surprisingly good about of representation.
The characters are all handled well and with care
The transgender romance and the larger representation
A few pacing issues
Occasionally too simplistic in its writing