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Film Studies 101
Feature
Become A Heist Films Expert In Ten Easy Movies
Master a genre in just a handful of films

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Become A Heist Films Expert In Ten Easy Movies | Dog Day Afternoon (1975)
Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Tagline: “Anything can happen during the dog days of summer. On August 22nd, 1972, everything did…”

Exhausted by the shoot for The Godfather 2 and wary of playing a gay character, Al Pacino initially passed on Sidney Lumet’s leftfield heist movie. But when Dustin Hoffman expressed interest in taking the role of true-life bank robber Sonny Wortzik, who raided a Brooklyn branch of Chase Manhattan to pay for his partner’s sex change op, Pacino threw himself back into a part with such gusto that it earned him another Oscar nomination. It’s one of his greatest performances. Along with fellow Godfather alum John Cazale, Sonny’s guileless, sweaty-browed accomplice Sal, Pacino’s character is utterly out of his depth. Tony Montana would cringe as Sonny takes on one after another of his hostages’ personal problems (“I’m dyin’ here!”), but he’s a character you truly care about. Lumet pitches the tone beautifully somewhere between thriller, domestic drama and high farce, as the pair find themselves caught in the middle of a media jamboree as pointedly satirical as another Lumet classic, Network, ever was.

Iconic moment: The touching conversation between Sonny and his partner Leon (Chris Sarandon), originally scripted as a face-to-face in front of a baying mob outside the bank, took place as a partially improvised phone call. It earned Chris Sarandon an Oscar nomination.

What to quote: “I'm robbing a bank because they got money here. That's why I'm robbing it.”

Pub trivia: Warner Bros. paid the real Sonny, John Wojtowicz, $7500 plus 1 percent of the film’s net profit for the rights to his story, money he used to pay for his partner’s sex change.

Further reading… The Anderson Tapes (1971), Quick Change (1990), Bottle Rocket (1996), Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)

 

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