Dog Day Afternoon: When Pacino showed the range of a true master

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‘Dog Day Afternoon’ proved that there was more to Al Pacino than cold and steely, or loud and shouty. (Getty Images)
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‘Dog Day Afternoon’ proved that there was more to Al Pacino than cold and steely, or loud and shouty. (Getty Images)
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‘Dog Day Afternoon’ proved that there was more to Al Pacino than cold and steely, or loud and shouty. (Getty Images)
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‘Dog Day Afternoon’ proved that there was more to Al Pacino than cold and steely, or loud and shouty. (Getty Images)
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‘Dog Day Afternoon’ proved that there was more to Al Pacino than cold and steely, or loud and shouty. (Getty Images)
Updated 15 August 2018
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Dog Day Afternoon: When Pacino showed the range of a true master

  • Pacino plays Sonny Wortzik, an effeminate outcast who desperately, brazenly – and really quite ineffectually – holds up a penniless Brooklyn bank
  • Emerging to collect a pizza delivery or goad the cops, cornered Wortzik becomes an unlikely folk hero, leading the simmering masses against authoritarianism

DUBAI: Once upon a time in Hollywood, Al Pacino’s name was not a byword for lukewarm thrillers or lackluster dramas. In possession of one of the most bankable faces in the movies, Pacino has a reputation that rests largely on just two roles: Michael Corleone in “The Godfather” (1972) and Tony Montana in “Scarface” (1983) – two iconic gangsters whose ruthless, brutish shadows obscure the riches they bookend.

Because Pacino’s script-screening was once judiciously discerning – if not always impeccable – throughout the 1970s, he acted in just eight films. Labors of love, not bottom-line negotiations, these heyday performances were rooted in compulsive zeal, obsessive research and an adherence to Stanislavski’s method system.

The complacency of contemporary Pacino sometimes feels like an insult to this golden run, and at its glorious centerpiece stands “Dog Day Afternoon” – a film which proved defiantly that there is so much more to Pacino than cold and steely or loud and shouty.

Under the nuanced gaze of Sidney Lumet – who directed Pacino two years earlier as the idealistic New York cop in the classic “Serpico” – the 1975 Oscar-winner was a triumph of tone, texture and pacing. And in nearly every frame, Pacino’s presence pulsates with magnetic charisma.

Pacino plays Sonny Wortzik, an effeminate outcast who desperately, brazenly – and really quite ineffectually – holds up a penniless Brooklyn bank alongside troubled friend Sal (fellow “Godfather” star John Cazale). Soon after the cops, the TV cameras arrive, and while he is claustrophobically holed up with his sympathetic hostages, Sonny’s unconventional backstory unravels out into the open.

As the spotlight is thrust onto a dysfunctional wife and lover, curious crowds descend on the scene. Emerging to collect a pizza delivery or goad the cops, cornered Wortzik becomes an unlikely folk hero, leading the simmering masses against authoritarianism.

This remarkable turn of events was based on a real failed heist of just three years earlier. The movie was nominated for six Oscars. Frank Pierson’s script won Original Screenplay. Meanwhile, Pacino – also up against Marlon Brando, Jack Nicholson and Robert Redford – lost out on the Best Actor gong to Jack Lemmon for “Save the Tiger.” That roll call alone is a testament to how far Hollywood has climbed, crawled and plunged.


Film Review: Hip-hop dream in ‘Gully Boy’ is music to the ears

Updated 23 February 2019
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Film Review: Hip-hop dream in ‘Gully Boy’ is music to the ears

CHENNAI: Stories about slums and poverty are not easy to script. They can easily turn into vulgar celebration, as Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire” was seen by some, notably legendary Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos.

But director Zoya Akhtar (“Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” and “Luck by Chance”) manages to steer herself clear of slipping into this trap with her latest drama, “Gully Boy,” which emerges from one of the biggest slums in the world, Dharavi, in Mumbai.

There, thousands of people living in a sprawl of huts have a bewildering variety of experiences to narrate. One story is that of Murad’s (Ranveer Singh), whose chance meeting with a rapper, Sher (Siddhant Chaturvedi), opens a magical door.

The film, inspired by real-life rappers Naezy and Divine, focusses on Murad’s ambition to become a rapper, and how he achieves it, despite his driver father’s fears and his uncle’s disdain.

In one scene, the uncle tells Murad that a chauffeur’s son can only hope to be another chauffeur, a servant in other words. A humiliated Murad takes this to heart, but quietly vows to transform his dream into reality.

His sweetheart Safeena (Alia Bhatt), who is studying to be a doctor, pushes him towards a hip-hop life.

Witten by Akhtar along with Reema Kagti, “Gully Boy” is undoubtedly the director’s career best, and Ranveer’s too. In a role that literally overshadows his earlier outings (including “Bajirao Mastani” and “Padmaavat”), he brilliantly conveys the angst and struggle of an underdog, and how his unflattering social status attracts ridicule even among those merely aspiring to be rappers.

Ranveer infuses into Murad a quiet determination that helps him cross frightening social and cultural barriers.

Safeena is also imaginatively fleshed out as a fiery woman who helps Akhtar create his own brand of rap music (some grippingly done by Naezy and Divine).

What is even more exciting is that “Gully Boy” brings rap out of the shadows and in this process the city and the slum, sensitively lensed by Jay Oza, seem to be screaming that miracles are possible even in the face of Mumbai’s painful inequities.