A documentary portrait of the late John Wojtowicz, whose attempted robbery of a Brooklyn bank to finance his male lover's sex-reassignment surgery was the real-life inspiration for Dog Day Afternoon (1975).
Coming of age in the 1960s, John Wojtowicz libido was unrestrained even by the libertine standards of the era, with multiple wives and lovers, both women and men. In August 1972, he attempted to rob a Brooklyn bank to finance his lover's sex-reassignment surgery, resulting in a fourteen-hour hostage situation that was broadcast live on television. Three years later, John was portrayed by Al Pacino as 'Sonny'
Personally, I think Dog Day Afternoon is the greatest American film of the 20th century. It clicks for me like few films do. Naturally, it was easy for me to invest in The Dog about the real Sonny, John Wojtowicz. One thing I didn't expect was that the documentary would be so wickedly funny. Just like how Chris Smith's American Movie feels like it teeters on mockumentary, The Dog piles on classic one liners by people who don't realize just how funny they are. Wojtowicz is a hell of a character. He's repulsive, yet endearing, I can see how people are put off this film as he dares you to leave before its over in its opening seconds. He's a total control freak, offering saying action and cut for the directors. Here we have this guy bulging with fat and mouth full of rotten teeth admitting he's a pervert and motivated by sex. It's incredible what that one inert desire propels us into doing. The film adds layers upon layers of contradiction, fleshing out the character of John, the way he wants to be seen and the way he would never want to be seen. He's almost too good to be true.
For the first hour, it's brilliantly entertaining, earning belly laughs for the absurdity of the anecdotes. Even if they're embellishing in lies, the situations themselves and especially the delivery are still amusing. It's a really dense documentary, painting a vivid picture with a great soundtrack to match. While Dog Day Afternoon is a microcosm of these types of farcical events that happen in America, this documentary emphasises the man against the system aspect, and for a fan of Sidney Lumet's films, there's great real life footage of the fateful event that puts it into perspective. Then the film gets devastating as it details the deterioration of Wojtowicz, however much of a bad person he may be. I simply can't believe this film is being so criminally overlooked, the time put into this is phenomenal considering John died in 2006. The directors must have been sitting on this footage for a long time. I'm so glad they got to share it with us and make a film that does justice to the original masterpiece. Bravo. I'm head over heels for this gripping, hilarious, thorough, thoughtful and heartfelt doc.
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