Is Dog Day Afternoon An Underrated Al Pacino Gem?

Is Dog Day Afternoon An Underrated Al Pacino Gem?

Is Dog Day Afternoon An Underrated Al Pacino Gem?

When you think of Al Pacino’s legacy, fans will always retrace his performances back to The Godfather, Scarface, Heat, Carlito’s Way, or even Scent of a Woman. The veteran has a strong filmography that showcases his talents and versatility in acting, which is why some of his great films will always go under the radar. Enter Dog Day Afternoon, which is about an inexperienced criminal leading a bank robbery that quickly goes awry. Sonny Wortzik’s life takes a chaotic turn during the hostage situation when the FBI arrives, and the lowly criminal must confront the surprising truths that led him to the situation. Upon release, the film was heavily praised by critics and even received six Academy Award nominations: With Frank Pierson winning the Best Writing for an Original Screenplay award. Now, I’ve pretty much answered the article question within the first few sentences, but why is Dog Day Afternoon an underrated gem?

One of the biggest things about the film is that it really isn’t about the bank robbery itself. Sure, the three amateurs bust in and fail spectacularly and then go into a hostage situation, but this is more of an intimate character-driven piece about Sonny and his mess of a life. It all unravels because of his failure to properly execute his plan to carry out the bank robbery. Sonny feels as if he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He’s a husband and a father living a lie. This is another coming-out story in a way, and while Sonny never officially comes out, it’s clearly killing him that he’s not able to be himself because of the notion of who he is. Sonny’s conversation with his wife Angie puts into display the inner turmoil that’s been eating up inside of him. The anger he’s felt towards his wife and kids has nothing to do with them. Sonny’s gay but lives in a world where coming out isn’t a feasible option. Dog Day Afternoon nicely explores Sonny’s character based on his interactions with both Angie and his lover, Leon. Since the entirety of the film mainly stays at the bank in Brooklyn, it’s more tell than show, but the conversations flow naturally back and forth as if genuine human beings are talking to one another. Angie being overwhelmed and hysterical was perfect. She doesn’t understand Sonny’s world despite being his wife. Her pouring out her emotions and revealing that she’s scared of the man that she’s married to exemplified the contrast between the two people.

Compare that to his talk with Leon. Sonny is calm and able to communicate with his former lover, but the conversation is still a revealing moment. Dog Day Afternoon doesn’t exactly say what’s wrong with Sonny, but it’s clear that there’s a mental illness going on with the young bank robber. Even with his rightful lover, Sonny is still an angry mess that Leon would prefer not to deal with. The conversation feels personal and relatable because we understand Sonny’s position. He’s definitely wrong for what he’s done, but he’s simply a misguided man who feels the pressure from all sides of his life. The fact that Sonny never has intentions of hurting the hostages at least signifies that he’s a decent human being, despite the plethora of problems that have clearly taken a toll on his life. However, the film isn’t just about Sonny’s screwed up life, but it also highlights how the media can have an influence on big moments like these. Despite Sonny’s personal life being a complete mess, the bank robber actually turns into a celebrity during the time him and the hostages are held there at the bank. It’s during the scenes when Sonny is interacting with the police, crowd, and media that you understand why people like him. He’s a charismatic personality and his antics are infections. The media isn’t exactly swaying audiences into making viewers side with the fascinating events, but people are typically addicted to drama and the news is no stranger to glorifying for the sake of ratings. The term “If it Bleeds, It Leads” is a popular slogan for newscasters. The term means that the most traumatic story gets the big attention. The film highlights this term in a subtle way in that the media accidentally turns the bank robbery into a news sensation.

As you can see, Dog Day Afternoon is a heavily layered story disguised as a bank robbery gone awry. Is it perfect? No. While it’s clear that Sonny is an amateur to the crime stuff, he’s not exactly billed as an idiot. So him and Salvatore being so gullible enough to believe that the cops would actually let them go free was a weak element in the script. Plus, the climax feels as it happens abruptly. Still, Dog Day Afternoon is an excellent movie and should be given more love from fans.

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