I love movies like that, that are just full of the best, natural pacing and great acting. I just feel like Lumet knew how to bring out the best in his actors, and it's so cool to see more of his work.
I think the plot of the movie is pretty well-known, or at least it was to me. Since it's ten minutes before I had planned on going to bed, here's a long and dirty IMDB summary: "Based upon a real-life story that happened in the early seventies in which the Chase Manhattan Bank in Flatbush, Brooklyn, was held siege by a gay bank robber determined to steal enough money for his male lover to undergo a sex change operation. On a hot summer afternoon, the First Savings Bank of Brooklyn is held up by Sonny and Sal, two down-and-out characters. Although the bank manager and female tellers agree not to interfere with the robbery, Sonny finds that there's actually nothing much to steal, as most of the cash has been picked up for the day. Sonny then gets an unexpected phone call from Police Captain Moretti, who tells him the place is surrounded by the city's entire police force. Having few options under the circumstances, Sonny nervously bargains with Moretti, demanding safe escort to the airport and a plane out of the country in return for the bank employees' safety"
It sounds like the plot of an extremely short movie - but Lumet stretches it out. Not unnaturally at all, mind you. If this movie was made today, for sure it would be way shorter and more action-packed. But thankfully it was not, and somehow the longer film and more slow, natural pace works so well here. It doesn't feel long to me, because I was so engrossed in the characters and the story.
I couldn't help but think of the other Lumet films I had to watch for the project - 12 Angry Men and Network. The movies are all sort of similar. Dog Day and Network share their disgust with the media, because in Dog Day, the whole situation quickly becomes a media circus, probably for worse, since it just seems to encourage people to behave in strange ways. It also reminded me of 12 Angry Men, a film that takes place in a very limited location to focus on how people interact with each other. It was really cool to think about how similar that Dog Day and 12 Angry Men are to each other, and how different their subject matter and end result really is. Both films take a natural and slower pace to their material, focusing on human interactions and emotions, and both take place in a very confined space, which heightens the emotions.At first I was sort of like, "Oh, another Lumet movie that does this," the way you might scoff at another body horror movie coming from Cronenberg. How different can it really feel? I was pleasantly surprised. Lumet was just so talented because he was able to draw out so many emotions in both of these films. He really showed that he just was a masterful director, able to handle all kinds of material and ranges of emotion. I loved that it was just a totally unique film, and reminded me of his other works without making me feel like he had a set style or something.
I think I was so happy with and surprised by how the subject of Sonny and Leon's relationship was handled. I was worried that the topic would just be stereotypical, but I was so blown away by how Lumet gave the relationship real weight and depth, without ever making it really matter that it was between two men. I mean, it was a real relationship first, and it just happened to be between two men. Sometimes movies just fall into using gay stereotypes, and it's really tiring, honestly. I loved that Lumet just treated it like any other relationship, and made it so rich and interesting. It seemed like it must have been pretty progressive, and it really keeps the movie feeling so current and updated still. There is so much acceptance that it still feels progressive to me. It's very cool. Lumet was just an awesome dude.
I think I've been ready to go back to bed since 10am, so I'm finally going to indulge. I really do recommend this movie if you've never seen it, because it's so masterfully made and still feels really modern. I'm a big fan of every Sideny Lumet movie that I've seen, and I hope to keeping seeing more, since he was obviously a really talented guy. Let me know if you check it out!
Have any thoughts on Dog Day Afternoon? Share them in the comments!
Ebert's Great Movie Essay on Dog Day Afternoon
Buy or rent it on Amazon