USA Release date: 21st September 1975
Watched on Sky+ Sunday 16th December 2012.
PLEASE NOTE: THERE MAY BE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
I knew (before watching) that this film had had its fair share of critical acclaim and I was keen to give it a look. There’s something in the title that conjures a picture in my mind of a violent bank siege; boy was I in for a surprise! It is most definitely not what I was expecting… so slow I had to keep checking my pulse to see if I was still alive! Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for a slow paced taught drama, but this one didn’t really work for me. I’ll tell you why after this very brief summary.
When Sonny (Al Pacino) and Sal (John Cazale) rob a bank in Brooklyn on August 22nd 1972 they get more than they bargained for. Based on a true story, the events of the day slowly unfold. The men take too long getting out and find themselves trapped in the bank with several hostages. The manager, Mulvaney (Sully Boyar) is very cooperative, as is the chief teller, Sylvia (Penelope Allen); even so, the police are soon in touch in the guise of Moretti (Charles Durning). What follows is the usual thing; promises made in return for a hostage or two. Before they know it there are large crowds outside and the whole thing has become a media circus with Sonny even being interviewed by phone live on the air! As all this is going on we learn more about Sonny’s life and his motivations for committing this crime. As things progress the FBI takes over the negotiations in the form of Sheldon (James Broderick). He is much more with the programme and events begin to move more quickly. Is there a way out for these men though?
Quite a daring film for its day, showing events almost exclusively from the point of view of the robbers. There seems to be a little Stockholm Syndrome going on where the hostages begin to identify with their captors, but this isn’t explored too closely. All the performances are very good with Pacino doing some of his very best scenery chewing with Cazale consequently playing it down and very understated (I liked that). It didn’t work for me though because I never bought into the stories we learn about Sonny; it’s him the film concentrates on mostly. He seems quite savvy when it comes to banks and police/FBI procedures and yet still panics when the police first arrive. I never had any connection with for either of the robbers and so found it quite a bumpy road to go down. Having said that I thought it was well made but certain scenes came across like a bit of an improvised scene in an acting class. I doubt I’d watch it again, but at least it’s another I can cross off ‘The List’.
SteelMonster’s verdict: RECOMMENDED (…just)
My score: 6.1/10
IMDb Score: 8.1/10 (based on 104,663 votes at the time of going to press).
MetaScore: No data: (Based on 0 critic reviews provided by Metacritic.com at the time of going to press).
Rotten Tomatoes ‘Audience’ Score: 47/100 ‘Want to See’ (based on 84,424 user ratings counted at the time of going to press).
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WARNING: STRONG LANGUAGE
Sonny: [on a TV broadcast over the phone] I'm robbing a bank because they got money here. That's why I'm robbing it.
TV Anchorman: No, what I mean is why do you feel you have to steal for money? Couldn't you get a job?
Sonny: Uh, no. Doing what? You know if you want a job you've got to be a member of a union. See, and if you got no union card you don't get a job.
TV Anchorman: What about non-union occupations?
Sonny: What's wrong with this guy? What do you mean non-union, like what? A bank teller? You know how much a bank teller makes a week? Not much. A hundred and fifteen to start, right? Now are you going to live on that? A got a wife and a couple of kids, how am I going to live on that? What do you make a week?
TV Anchorman: Well I'm here to talk to you Sonny...
Sonny: Well I'm talking to you. We're entertainment, right? What do you got for us?
TV Anchorman: Well what do you want to get for it? Do you expect to be paid because...
Sonny: No, I don't want to be paid; I don't need to be paid. Look, I'm here with my partner and nine other people, see. And we're dying, man. You know? You're going to see our brains on the sidewalk; they're going to spill our guts out. Now are you going to show that on television? Have all your housewives look at that? Instead of As The World Turns? I mean what do you got for me? I want something for that.
TV Anchorman: Sonny, you could give up?
Sonny: Give up? Right. Have you ever been in prison?
TV Anchorman: No!
Sonny: No! Well let's talk about something you fucking know about, okay? How much do you make a week? That's what I want to hear. Are you going to talk to me about that?
TV Anchorman: [a "Please Stand By" graphic appears on the TV screen]
Sonny: Hey, what the fuck happened?
Mulvaney: I guess he didn't appreciate your use of language.
Sonny: Fuck him.
Sonny: I don't wanna talk to some flunky pig trying to calm me man.
Det. Sgt. Eugene Moretti: Now you don't have to be calling me pig for...
Sonny: [Notices other officers moving toward him] What is he doing?
Det. Sgt. Eugene Moretti: [shouts at officers] Will you get back there!
Sonny: What are you moving in there for?
Det. Sgt. Eugene Moretti: [Runs toward closing officers] Will you get the fuck back there! Get back there will you!
Sonny: [Addresses other officers moving toward him] What's he doing? Go back there man! He wants to kill me so bad he can taste it! Huh? ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA! ATTICA!
[Yells it too cheering crowd]
Sonny: ATTICA! ATTICA! REMEMBER ATTICA?
Sonny: Kiss me.
Det. Sgt. Eugene Moretti: What?
Sonny: Kiss me. When I'm being fucked, I like to get kissed a lot.
Sheldon: You handled yourself real well, Sonny. A lot of men would've choked, and we might have had a death or a multiple death on our hands. But you handled it. I respect that. Now don't you try to take Sal. We'll handle him. Just sit tight and you won't get hurt.
[Sheldon turns to walk away]
Sonny: Wait a minute... What are you talking about?
Sheldon: You just sit quiet. We'll handle Sal.
Sonny: Do you think I'd sell him out? You fuck!