Dog Day Afternoon (1975)


Crime, Drama


Sidney Lumet




Al Pacino, John Cazale, Charles Durning, James Broderick, Lance Henriksen, Chris Sarandon, Penelope Allen, Sully Boyar, Susan Peretz, Carol Kane, Beulah Garrick, Sandra Kazan, Estelle Omens, Marcia Jean Kurtz, Amy Levitt, Gary Springer, John Marriott, Philip Charles MacKenzie


A ten-minute bank robbery turns into a hostage situation and a media circus when Sonny (Al Pacino), one of the robbers, finds that there's nothing much to steal.


I've been putting off Dog Day Afternoon for a very long time. It's just that the whole bank robbery storyline didn't appeal me much. Then Dell mentioned this film on his Top 20 LGBT Movies list and, curious to see how it would fit, I finally checked it out. I'm not going to tell you that because I don't want to spoil the film for you if you still haven't seen it, but it sure fits. And it's such a great film I'd put it on my Top 20 LGBT Movies list too.

Anyway, the film tells a compelling and tragic true story about a bank robbery. It does have some of the typical moments of films of this genre – the robbers getting a massive attention from the media, for example – and if you think about it, the plot is rather thing, but to benefit from that almost non-existent plot are the characters.

This film has indeed a fantastic, detailed, believable characterization, and very interesting characters, especially John Cazale’s Sal. While Al Pacino’s Sonny is the incarnation of a man who tries to keep everything under control, a man who acts tough but who’s got heart and doesn’t want anybody to get hurt – which is probably the reason why you can’t help but sympathize with him -, John Cazale’s Sal is a completely different man. Sal is the kind of man who does not need to talk to speak. His face does all the job. He is aggressive and the more dangerous of the two, but he is also kind of naïve. Unlike Sonny, he is worried about what people think about him which is crazy since he’s robbing a bank and he’s the wandering mine. I think that’s what makes the character so interesting.

These two different but equally fascinating characters are brought to life by two fantastic actors. In my opinion, Al Pacino gives his best performance ever. He doesn’t play Sonny, he is Sonny, and the best thing about it is that Sonny is different from the usual character he plays. Sure, he’s still a criminal, but he’s far away from the cold-blooded Michael Corleone or the ruthless Tony Montana.  John Cazale also gives a great performance and he embodies Sal to perfection.

Then, of course, there’s the direction. Not only Lumet builds some great tension and suspense but he also gives the inside and the outside of the bank two completely different tones. It’s all calm inside and all frenetic outside. It should be the opposite given the situation, but I think that’s why it works so well.

However, Dog Day Afternoon does have a flaw. It touches many important themes such as the trauma of Vietnam War veterans, media doing everything to get a story and homosexuality, but it doesn’t explore them at most. 


  1. Uno dei film-simbolo degli anni '70, manifesto di un'epoca (anche se, forse, ne è rimasto un po' prigioniero...). Pacino ai suoi massimi. Bellissimo.

    1. Sono d'accordo. Mi dispiace soltanto non averlo visto prima

  2. This was a very daring film for the times and I vaguely remember the news about this film and how people were upset about it. So, for that time, it was ahead and it was so well acted.

  3. As I said on Twitter, you get a big yay for watching this, and an even bigger yay for enjoying it. I love what you said about how you would think it would be crazier inside the bank and calmer outside. I agree that that's a big reason it works. Lumet was such a master.

    1. And thanks for the link!

    2. You're welcome! It's a shame he's not among the living anymore. Cinema needs more geniuses like him.