Dog Day Afternoon

Frank Pierson in Person

On August 22, 1972, the temperature had hit ninety-seven degrees when two men entered a Brooklyn bank to rob it. Their botched heist ended after a fourteen-hour standoff involving nine hostages, the bulk of the borough's police, and a full medley of media. But there was more to this story: its hero, a twenty-six-year-old lowlife, was robbing the bank to finance a sex-change operation for his lover. Dog Day Afternoon is a sizzling rendition of that day's events, wavering between pathos and pageantry in the heat of Frank Pierson's Oscar-winning screenplay. Ever antic, Al Pacino, in his second outing with director Lumet (Serpico), plays the unfortunate thief caught up in an escalating fiasco. His Sonny is feverishly human, an inept loser trying to salvage some dignity from the debacle, while outside the bank, the media abuses the mayhem. Like Wag the Dog and a pack of pictures that came later, Dog Day Afternoon illustrates that actions are altered when aired. “We're all entertainers!” declares Sonny on an all-too-sunny day.

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