I had always wanted to see Dog Day Afternoon, but after seeing a little bit of it on TV when I was young, I was also a little scared to see it. The idea of a bank robbery-hostage situation was just really scary, plus I thought Al Pacino and John Cazale were really freaky looking.
Seeing it now, though, as an adult, I see how really not scary it is, at least not in the way I thought it was. The robbery itself isn’t all that scary, especially when Sonny (Pacino) and Sal (Cazale) seem more intimidated by the hostages than they do of the robbers. What’s scary is seeing New York in the 70’s, hot and grimy and full of police that no one seems to trust. New Yorkers end up rallying around Sonny, and it’s not totally clear if it’s just because he’s suddenly become famous or if there’s just a mutual hatred of cops, but I think it’s probably a bit of both, which is freaky. Sonny’s feeling of having nowhere to turn is scary, too: we find out about halfway through that although Sonny is legally married to a woman, he’s also unofficially married to a man, Leon (Chris Sarandon) whom he considers to be his true wife, as Leon is trying to get a sex change operation. And that’s why Sonny is robbing the bank to begin with, to pay for Leon’s operation. I wish I could say I know things are better now, but as someone who was without health insurance for about 2 years when I was unemployed I know that when it comes to money and medical treatment, things have not gotten better.
I’m not a diehard Pacino fan or anything, but he’s really good here. And really, the whole movie is just so great, especially the way it’s shot and the feeling that we get inside the bank as opposed to outside. When the robbers and hostages are finally transported out of the bank and taken to an airport, it makes you really uneasy that they’re out of the familiar bank surroundings, even though the goal the whole time was to get out.
Dog Day Afternoon is just great overall in the way it portrays feelings, whether it’s the realistic feelings of love in a homosexual relationship (which seemed to be handled pretty gracefully considering it was 1975) or the feeling of heat and anxiety of being held hostage inside a bank. It’s just . . . great.
I was obsessed with this film when I first saw it in high school. I loved pretty much everything about it, even the opening sequence which has my favorite Elton John song. I also really liked Al Pacino at the time.
This movie is also one of my earliest memories of coming across a homosexual character. For whatever reason homosexuality was never something I really thought about until college. I think movies are what really formed my view of it before then though, in a good way. Largely from this movie and My Own Private Idaho, another film I remember watching on multiple occasions both by myself and with friends, and no one was ever weird about it which was great.
A Dog Day Afternoon is a film I think I’ve seen around ten times or so, so when Elizabeth said she had never seen it I was very excited to watch it for her first time. I think the dialogue is great, and I think it keeps you very invested, even though it pretty much takes place in one room and the street outside.
If you have not seen this movie watch it right now!