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Serpico (1973)

Directed by Sidney Lumet

Starring: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe

Prior to 1975s Dog Day Afternoon Sidney Lumet worked with Al Pacino on another true story. The time it was the 1973 film Serpico which told the story of whistle-blowing police officer Frank Serpico. In addition to Pacino, this film stars John Randolph (Christmas Vacation) and Jack Kehoe (The Sting, The Untouchables). This film would earn two Oscar nominations including one for Best Screenplay and a Best Actor nod for Pacino. Despite failing to win the Oscar, Pacino did take home a Golden Globe for his performance. The score of the film was also nominated for a Grammy thanks to the work of composer Mikis Theodorakis.

Frank Serpico (Pacino) is an honest cop who’s hoping to make a difference in New York City. Soon he discovers that many of his fellow officers are deeply involved in a corrupt enterprise of extortion and payoffs. As he seeks to end the corruption he is met by opposition from his fellow officers. This opposition could become dangerous as Serpico continues his quest to clean up the department.

This is another example of Sidney Lumet’s ability to get the best from his cast. Lumet was able to pull out an Oscar-worthy performance from Pacino. He manages to work perfectly as the cop who is anything but ordinary. His character has a unique depth and energy that makes the story work. It would have been sad to see such an interesting story told from the perspective of a Serpico who was more like John Q. Law than the honest hippy in the movie.  Lumet was also able to get great work from the rest of the cast who come together in this interesting and powerful movie.

The score of the film is also great, adding a layer to the movie that never distracts from the story. It all blends well together with the sets, locations, and all the other visual aspects of the film.

The one criticism I have about this movie is the lack of depth they gave to the supporting characters. The movie could have given a bit more information on the people who surrounded Serpico. This didn’t hurt the movie a lot, but left me wanting just a bit more information on the rest of the people.

This is another good movie to enjoy for people who love action and suspense. The acting is good and the directing brings out the best in the story. I give this one 4.2 out of 5 stars.

Rating: R

Running Time: 130 minutes


  1. What a classic! I loved Lumet’s subtle direction that just let the acting and writing do the talking, and it’s definitely one of Pacino’s best performances. Then again, there are so many ones to choose from. Good review.


    1. Thanks! It’s interesting that Pacino films seem to age well in some cases, this being one of them. While others, like Sea of Love, really date themselves. I think a large part of this is exactly what you just stated. The direction keeps the film relevant.


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