1973 was a very strong year for movies. I say it’s the best year in movies produced in the modern Hollywood system up to 1973. It’s not the best year of the decade (1976 is just fabulous for excellent movies), but with the likes of American Graffiti, The Sting, and this movie, Serpico, it’s hard not to get excited about the year of film in 1973. I’ll say off the bat that Serpico is an excellent movie. I can hardly call that a surprise given the amount of talent behind the film. The story, based off real-life events, is very engaging and its brutally honest. Just like Mean Streets showed, living in New York City was not exactly all that safe. While Mean Streets covered everyday life in a New York community, this film covers the police and more specifically, police corruption. The film shows that pretty much every cop in the NYPD were corrupt to some degree whether it’s racketeering or paid murder, but one man decided to show honesty and integrity….and nearly pays with his life. This is a very powerful theme and it shows why the movie can be labeled as inspiring. It’s just one of the few things that make this movie a must-see.
This picture takes place in New York City in the late 1960’s-early 1970’s. Frank Serpico’s (Al Pacino) profession is a NYPD officer, and his motto is to become a good cop. The problem is that no one else wants to be a good cop. He refuses to extort money from the local criminals unlike his colleagues. Because of that, he is alienated from everyone else on the workforce. He is constantly put in life-threatening scenarios, and nothing seems to get done when he goes to the highest authorities. He refuses to be like everyone, despite all the danger, in hopes that one day corruption will end.
This movie relies upon some heavy acting by Al Pacino, and he certainly rose to the task. This movie also proved that Pacino was capable of becoming a powerful leading man. He impressed everyone in The Godfather, but Pacino proves he is no fluke with his incredibly powerful, believable role as Frank Serpico. I really thought Pacino was Frank every time he appeared onscreen. I love how Pacino can make himself disappear in roles so easily, and that’s why he is one of the greatest actor’s of all-time. I also loved the physical transformation Pacino takes throughout the film. He gradually grows lots of hair and a beard, and it’s a very noticeable transformation. I thought that was really cool to point out.
This film was directed by the great Sidney Lumet. He directed the 1957 classic 12 Angry Men and that movie kept him on the map. He, once again, brought his master direction techniques to this film. He was able to get the best out of Pacino and was able to give the film more of a personality. He definitely tackled the issue of police corruption very well. Police officers actually said what happened in this film was an accurate description of what really went on during the police force, and that’s still a very scary thought.
I also liked the location authenticity of the movie. This movie was filmed in actual locations of the city, and it felt like I was in 1973 New York. It’s interesting to see how these movies featuring New York in the 70’s proves how much the city changed with compared to 2016. That being said, I always love being in New York; past and present. The film was filmed in every neighborhood except for Staten Island.
Overall, I really, really liked Serpico. I would rank this film as my favorite film of 1973. I cannot think of a complaint to give the film. It feature solid, fluid direction by Sidney Lumet. The acting, led by the legendary Al Pacino, is perfect. I loved the story and the way the tricky issues were handled. It was shocking to see how bad police corruption got. So bad that they were willing to kill Frank Serpico just to keep his silence. That scene where there was a drug bust and his fellow detectives put him into the line of fire was very saddening and powerful to watch. I also liked the music, which was composed by Mikis Theodorakis. This movie is a classic and I can easily recommend it to those who love good movies. If you want to know why Al Pacino is such a big movie star, just check out Serpico.
My Grade: A+