A mentally unstable Vietnam war veteran works as a night-time taxi driver in New York City where the perceived decadence and sleaze feeds his urge for violent action, attempting to save a preadolescent prostitute in the process.
Robert De Niro,
Based upon a real-life story that happened in the early seventies in which the Chase Manhattan Bank in Gravesend, Brooklyn, was held siege by a gay bank robber determined to steal enough money for his male lover to undergo a sex change operation. On a hot summer afternoon, the First Savings Bank of Brooklyn is held up by Sonny and Sal, two down-and-out characters. Although the bank manager and female tellers agree not to interfere with the robbery, Sonny finds that there's actually nothing much to steal, as most of the cash has been picked up for the day. Sonny then gets an unexpected phone call from Police Captain Moretti, who tells him the place is surrounded by the city's entire police force. Having few options under the circumstances, Sonny nervously bargains with Moretti, demanding safe escort to the airport and a plane out of the country in return for the bank employees' safety. Written by
Al Pacino originally grew a mustache as a way to help him deal with the fact that he was playing a gay man. Looking at the first day's rushes with director Sidney Lumet, Pacino quickly realized that the mustache had to go. See more »
Sonny tells the police that they are both Vietnam veterans. Later Sal says that he's never been on an airplane before. Some people believe this to be a goof, but later in the film Sonny's mother refers to his time served in Vietnam and also Sonny says he is "entitled to" a military funeral. It may be that Sonny is a Vietnam vet and Sal is not, or that both men are vets and Sal simply has not flown before and rather traveled via ship. See more »
An interesting true story made a good film with great performances
Brooklyn, New York. Sonny, Sal and another man walk into the bank and hold it up. Seconds into the job, the third man changes his mind and leaves. The job starts to go wrong when Sonny discovers that the truck he was told was dropping off money, was actually picking it up, meaning the vault is nearly empty. Things get worse when the police arrive outside and trap the two inside with a handful of hostages. As Sonny and Sal try to keep control, a circus breaks out on the street with the police, the public and the media all involved.
I have seen this film several times but it has been a few years since I last had the chance to see it. I watched it again today with the memory of it being good but not really as truly great as many seem to think it is. The plot is all the more fascinated for it being true but it is not an easy subject to bring to the screen. While morally most people can accept robbers in films as characters to support, it is a bigger step to accept the sexualities and complexities of these characters and to get behind them. However the film actually manages to make this quite moving and difficult - not only do we feel for Sonny but the film is fair to him and, more impressively, Leon. It would have been easy to turn this relationship into a joke but the script allows it to be done with sensitivity. The rest of the film captures the sense of circus and media feeding frenzy well as well as being quite tense and enjoyable to watch.
The film's strength is it's performances and, in particular, Pacino in a performance that is both showy and understated at different times. He is a real person and it is to his credit that, no matter the revelations about Sonny, he never loses the audience. Cazale is good here too but in a different way - a simple, sympathetic character. His hit rate is amazing when you think that he was only ever in a handful of films and they were all pretty amazing, but it's hard to tell how good an actor he was really. Durning is good in support and the rest of the cast are pretty good but it is Pacino's film and he manages well with the shouting, the silence and the complexities of his characters.
Overall this is not one of the best films ever made but it is certainly a very good telling of this true story. The film deals very well with both the tension of the situation but also the underlying stories and characters
even more surprising for the period it was made in, it makes a very
balanced presentation of the homosexual characters. The direction is very good and the performances are all good, but it is Pacino's film and he does very well with it.
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