A long time ago I used to have debates with people about who was better, Pacino or De Niro. As time went on, and Pacino decided to chew scenery, while De Niro stayed somewhat respectable. It was embarrassing for me having to defend things like 'Scent of a Woman'. Of course De Niro has lately been floundering along, but it's too late. Now I just say "John Cazale was an amazing actor." He's the one to watch here.
A masterpiece of storytelling. Lumet's no-frills style still allows for subtle variety. Perfectly edited and paced, it simultaneously finds humor, keeps it human, and avoids sentimentality. The acting is perfect. Pacino is totally relatable, wildly kinetic, but always in control. No other actor can work up to such histrionics and remain so grounded. Cazale, Durning, Sarandon, and the bit players are all terrific.
Al Pacino is running the freak show here between his inner self and his social life, the FBI and the TV broadcast. Sometimes a tremendous dark comedy written almost to perfection and other times just fascinating the depth of everyone's character. I felt they were live performers given a script and improvising the all time. Still, Sonny is lost (like Sal going to Wyoming) and the movie sometimes too.
Immensely entertaining because Sonny is such an endearing schlemiel who through his fuckups breaks many bank robbery clichés, although perhaps not the structural one that deludes us into rooting for his ultimate success. At times its political agenda feels ridiculous, that Sonny's violent act is justified considering all the forces he faces (class, war, the repressive state apparatus, the spectacle, sexual norms).
Lumet's directorial take on the Frank Pierson script resulted in one of the seminal films of the seventies. Based on the true story of John Wojtowicz the film touched on several button issues including gay rights, police brutality and handling hostage situations. Pacino gave an iconic turn here with great support all around especially Durning, Cazale, Sarandon and Allen. One of Lumet's best.