Sunday, 28 August 2011

Film Review: SERPICO (1973)

Serpico poster Director: Sidney Lumet
Running time: 130 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 18

Genre: Biography/Crime/Drama
USA Release date: 5th December 1973

Watched on Sky+ Sunday 28th August 2011.


This film is based on a book by Peter Maas, it tells the true story of cop Frank Serpico and how he exposed corruption amongst members of the New York Police Department. I did see it a lot of years ago but couldn’t appreciate then just what a very good film it is. Yes, it seems a little dated today, but it’s more about the characters than the surroundings. I’ll tell you more after this brief summary.

serpico-movie-still-2 We begin with Frank Serpico being rushed to hospital in a police car having been shot in the face. We then go back to the beginning, with him graduating from the police academy. He soon finds that life on the streets is very different to what he expected. For instance, cops get free food for turning a blind eye to double parking at a certain diner. Eventually, after trying a couple of departments, he ends up in plain clothes and is transferred to a new division. It’s when he’s handed an envelope with money in that he realises just how widespread the corruption has become. Unable to take it to his commanding officer, he turns to his friends, the mayor’s office, anyone who’ll listen. He makes it clear to his colleagues that he won’t take any money and, despite extreme pressure, he never does. He is given the run-around by all those he thought he could trust and eventually it gets too dangerous for Frank. He has to turn to his one last hope; but is it too late for Frank? I’ll leave it here so the Spoiler Police don’t get the idea I’m on the take.

serpico I should mention that the film doesn’t just concentrate on Serpico’s working life, but his personal life too. The women he lived with and how his situation affected his relationships with them. An excellent performance from Al Pacino as Frank Serpico is the highlight of this one, he is really great! Also worthy of note are; John Randolph as Chief Sidney Green, Jack Kehoe as Tom Keough, Biff McGuire as Capt. Insp. McClain, Barbara Eda-Young as Laurie, Cornelia Sharpe as Lesley Lane and Tony Roberts as Bob Blair. Oh, and I also spotted a brief appearance from Judd Hirsch as a Cop (uncredited).

Serpico steps I won’t say this film is all about Al Pacino, there are many other factors that make this a great film, but without him I’m sure it would have been very different. The film was made just a year after the real Frank Serpico retired from the force and went to live in Switzerland (according to the closing credits) and so I guess the story must have still been pretty fresh in the memory of many New Yorkers. It has a very gritty feel to it, as many films of the period do, and this really lends itself to the stark reality of the situation Frank finds himself in. I must say I got really involved with the plot and, despite having seen it before; I was still intrigued to see the outcome. It’s a great film with one of Pacino’s finest performances… Recommended.

My Score: 8.5/10.

IMDb Score: 7.8/10 (based on 30,502 votes at the time of going to press).

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90/100 (based on 39 reviews counted at the time of going to press).

Tom Keough: Now I ain’t sayin’ who. They just said ya’... ya’ couldn’t be trusted, you know?
Frank Serpico: ‘Cause I don’t take money, right?
Tom Keough: Frank, let’s face it. Who can trust a cop who don’t take money?


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