Todd Gaines’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sonny and Sal decide to rob a bank. What could go wrong? Attica! Attica! Attica!
It's said "Fact is stranger than fiction." In this case, it's true. Dog Day Afternoon is based on a true story, and what a story it is. To divulge key plot elements would be criminal. You can't make this shit up. I was floored on more than one occasion. I didn't know to laugh or cry. But, I was entertained, and that's what matters.
Here's a flick that's way ahead of its time. Loaded with social issues that are still relevant today, sensational journalism, and a satire of the relations between the police and John Q. Public. I'm sure this one shocked audiences, especially if they're unfamiliar with the source material. Hell, Sidney Lumet lets his actors run wild. He says "Who needs a script?" It shows. My favorite county is Wyoming too. We get to watch a heist in close to real time in the 1st half. There's almost zero music. It makes the heist feel more real. Most of the movie is set in one location. (12 Angry Men Part II but with bank teller ladies instead of jurors.) Plus, the most important part, the acting from the leads.
So, Al Pacino plays Sonny, and John Cazale plays Sal. (Perhaps you've heard of them?) Pacino is lights out. Each of his speeches outside the bank is what acting is supposed to be. He's one of the greatest actor, EVER!
John Cazale is the man! With each performance I watch, I'm reminded of the tragedy of his way too soon death. There's a bone-chilling scene in Dog Day Afternoon, one that might give you goosebumps. John talks about how "Cigarettes will give you the cancer." How ironic, since he died of lung cancer. He's why this flick owns. His puppy dog eyes, his haircut, the way he doesn't need words to talk, the way he holds a gun, and the way he carries himself, all scream badass motherfucker. He might've lived a short life, but what a life it was. Also, Charles Durning looks like a walking talking heart attack, Chris Sarandon does his best Phyllis Diller impersonation, and Lance Henriksen shows up to act all policeman-esque.
To me, Dog Day Afternoon drags just a bit towards the finale. The movie loses a tiny bit of steam as the FBI takes over. Pacino's McDonalds eating wife earns the annoying character of the year award, and the ending could've been a little less rushed. I kept going back and forth if I wanted the "baddies" to get away with the crime. But, what a flick. I'm tempted to give it 4.5 stars for John Cazale, but 4 is still a solid score. I used to think the Oscars mattered. They don't. Cazale not being nominated is a crime greater than armed robbery. There's a documentary about the real life case, I need to check it out. Such an important movie watching experience. Highly recommended!!