If you're sick of seeing Al Pacino cast as a Mafia leader (such as in "Scarface" or "Carlito's Way") or a cop (such as in "Heat" or "Sea of Love"), then you will probably find "Dog Day Afternoon", one of the more famous bank heist movies before the the post-Pulp era, a refreshing change.
Based on an actual event in Brooklyn one hot summer day, Al Pacino is Sonny, who holds up a bank with his dim-witted friend Sal (John Cazale), only to see his plans literally go up in smoke when the police, led by Detective Moretti (Charles Durning), surround the building. A hostage situation ensues and in the course of a long hot afternoon and sticky night, the area surrounding the bank becomes a media circus, Sonny gains many loyal 'fans' in the crowd of onlookers, and many revelations are made about what motivated Sonny to commit such a daring crime.
Part comedy and part tragedy, DDA plays up on these two aspects. It is hilarious to see Sonny and Sal bumble their way through the robbery, their tribulations with the mundane (one hostage wants to use the bathroom, and soon they all do), and their comical interactions with the 'hostages'. However, as the situation drags into the late evening, both the police and the bank robbers become more desperate to end the standoff.
Pacino is very 'warm-and-fuzzy' in his portrayal of Sonny, quite an antithesis to his normal tough-as-nails roles. Cazale is perfect for portraying Sonny's off-kilter and space-cadet accomplice, whose idea of a foreign country is 'Wyoming'. The most remarkable character, Leon, a gay man (considering the time in which this movie was made), is unfortunately not portrayed in a very convincing manner, and is the weakest role in this exceptional movie. Also watch out for a very young Lance Henriksen (who plays the ex-FBI Agent Frank Black in "Millennium") as an FBI Agent.
"Dog Day Afternoon" is a very entertaining and fun-to-watch movie that deservedly picked up several Academy Award nominations in 1975 for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, and was awarded Best Original Screenplay. So go to the back of the rack and check it out at your video store!