September 25, 1975 [Dog Day Afternoon]

Al Pacino and John Cazale again--and Cazale is once more the weaker one--but not quite: Pacino’s Sonny can’t keep his shirttail tucked in or his eyes from bulging. Cazale’s Sal may be a bit slow, but he keeps his gun pointed, and is ready to do all the things that Sonny only thinks about.

But what were they thinking? How could they keep their lives private in New York City, where every bad move becomes a headline, every limping story instantly a celebration of trapped celebrity--but Sonny and Sal get to strut and shout from their tight spot, and the comedy of it grows like the crowd they attract. When we go outside to see what it looks like from there, we’re joined by Charles Durning’s cop, his own shirttail not cooperating, his happy-clown frame skittering around in the hot street, talking fast to keep the other clowns from quitting the circus.

Sidney Lumet manages to direct heat, believe it or not, the closing in of an urban summer, pressing people to do the worst things--as in Ray Bradbury’s “Touched with Fire”--the sky white and watching, checking it out but making no promises that don’t include a bullet.


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