Dog Day Afternoon and the THEY’RE COMING IN THE BACK Moment
The One Line Summary: Getting cash to pay for a sex change operation has never gone so horribly wrong as a couple of spectacularly under-prepared men (there was a third but he hilariously chickened out before it even started) rob a bank on a hot summer day in 1970s New York City, but do so after the daily deposits have already left the building, leaving them hardly any money and prompting them to take everyone inside hostage in this gripping thriller that is less about standard Hollywood flash and more about the actors and their fiercely natural performances which are some of the best in the decade.
The Two-Line Blurb: Yup, it’s based on a real story. In the days before 24-hours news and the Internet and global social media were even invented, the escapades of a local everyman down on his luck, caught in the national spotlight, catapults him to momentary stardom as he goes head-to-head with police who appear to be just as out of their element as the criminals, scrambling to keep pace with the clearly unstable and increasingly volatile situation.
The Three-Line Set-up: Sonny (Pacino) and Sal (Cazale) are well into their troubled ordeal and the police are at a loss as to how to make it end peacefully and get the hostages out of the building. From the back of the bank, what looks like every cop in the tri-state area attempt to enter through a barricaded backroom window. Sonny has a surprise for them.
The Four-Line Moment: The film is already monumentally unnerving with its gritty realism and documentary feel leading up to Sonny finally losing his cool. The first shot fired is terrifying as the cornered bank robber reacts like a threatened animal, blindly shooting his rifle at the glass. The single bullet creates pandemonium out on the streets that begins with a mad dash for safety and culminates with police tackling heckling bystanders. We see that the story isn’t just about two men in a bank but a part of the city thrown into chaos as police, spectators, and criminals all work the system.
The Five-Word Review: Has Pacino ever been better?