The Panic in Needle Park ★★★★

O squalor of 70s New York, why do I love thee? The concrete jungle. The exhaust fume haze. The ringing din of traffic and trains. The dimly lit, crumbling apartments. The multi-cultural melting pot of lowlifes, losers, drunks, petty criminals, drug addicts, and the simply impoverished. All of it is on fine display in Panic in Needle Park, whose youthful denizens seem right at home and even happy with their heroin-fueled stupor, as do the weary cops that are powerless at getting the drugs off the streets, but still forge ahead with unenthusiastic futility. And crawling out of this sewer comes Al Pacino in his first starring role, the Italian-American wunderactor of New Hollywood, ready to become the Godfather, and that alone is a good enough reason to watch this film. I suppose my fondness for urban grime is because it's like everything we feared about the collapse of society came true when the Hays Code was banished just three years before, and no futuristic dystopia has ever been as grim and gritty and as relatable as 1970s New York.