Written by / 2/08/2023 / No comments / , , , , , , , , , , ,

SIDNEY LUMET DIRECTS AL PACINO IN THE TRUE CRIME 'SERPICO'

Al Pacino in SERPICO Year: 1973 Rating: ***1/2

Between the two GODFATHER films that made Al Pacino not only a star but a living legend. he headlined SERPICO, where, like Michael Corleone, he starts out youthfully idealistic and winds up...

Well in this case he goes from idealism to becoming purposefully annoying... refusing any shortcut that cops can acquire in New York City, starting with the kind of sandwich he gets for free...

Al Pacino and Damien Leake in SERPICO

These are the best scenes, early on, as Frank Serpico — the real life cop-whistleblower against police corruption in New York City from the early 1970's — simultaneously learns the danger of the streets and the streetwise politics of arresting crooks without getting credit...

It's at the pivotal forty-five minute mark, as he's handed the first envelope of dirty cash, that the movie starts repeating itself... constantly refusing payouts to the chagrin of fellow officers, who don't trust an honest cop — plus he resembles a grungy counter-culture lawbreaker more than a worthwhile lawman...

Al Pacino in SERPICO with Needle Park types Tracey Walter and Jill Senter

As to why he embraced the ragged hippie look and lifestyle compared to his short-haired cohorts (or how he looked initially) is never fully explained... the progressive transition seems more like an excuse for Pacino to resemble the outsider he's portraying without words (during a time when cops weren't popular)... or to mirror the real Frank Serpico, who was hardly famous or recognizable enough to merit such a cinematic doppelganger... 

Which doesn't mean Pacino isn't effective in the role — someone even mentions how Frank's either hot or cold... screaming or silent... perfect for the intense method actor, who'd have a career based on explosive emotions — and storywise, as one suspenseful crime-scene follows another, SERPICO... while overlong... is never boring...

Al Pacino in SERPICO with Cornelia Sharpe

Then, between random bursts of action, his personal life is viewed through two consecutive Greenwich Village girlfriends — and yet no one, inside or out, at home or work... including a bevy of recognizable character-actors from M. Emmett Walsh to James Tolkan to Jack Kehoe to Tony Roberts to Ed Grover to Nathan George to F. Murray Abraham...  can fully comprehend what makes this guy tick...

Overall, director Sidney Lumet's deliberately exploitative, one-sided expose on police corruption doesn't seem intended to stretch beyond its own plot narrative: the what and the who are hardly distinguished, making it difficult to root for a messenger without a real human inside — especially when played by an actor who makes villains so likeable, running in circles here as someone so downright honest he's not very interesting.

Al Pacino in SERPICO 
Al Pacino in SERPICO 
Al Pacino in SERPICO 

Future Animal House actress Mary-Louise Weller in SERPICO (at a Village hippie party)
Mary-Louise Weller in SERPICO
Al Pacino in SERPICO with Cornelia Sharpe
Al Pacino in SERPICO with Cornelia Sharpe
Al Pacino in SERPICO with Mary-Louise Weller
Al Pacino in SERPICO with Mary-Louise Weller
Al Pacino looking very Michael Corleone in SERPICO
Al Pacino in SERPICO with Cornelia Sharpe
Al Pacino in SERPICO
SERPICO with Cornelia Sharpe
Al Pacino in SERPICO with future Cuckoo's Nest actor Nathan George
Nathan George in SERPICO
Nonfamous cameo from Judd Hirsch in SERPICO
Al Pacino in SERPICO with Cornelia Sharpe
Al Pacino in SERPICO
Al Pacino in SERPICO with Tony Roberts
Al Pacino in SERPICO
Al Pacino in SERPICO with Barbara Eda-Young
Al Pacino in SERPICO
John Travolta with his SERPICO poster from Saturday Night Fever
Al Pacino in SERPICO
F. Murray Abraham in SERPICO
Al Pacino in SERPICO with Cornelia Sharpe
Al Pacino and Damien Leake in SERPICO and SEA OF LOVE
Al Pacino and Albert Henderson in SERPICO
Al Pacino and Al Pacino in Saturday Night Fever
Al Pacino in Saturday Night Fever
John Travolta and Al Pacino in Saturday Night Fever
Al Pacino in SERPICO

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