Combustible Celluloid
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With: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe, Biff McGuire, Barbara Eda-Young, Cornelia Sharpe, Tony Roberts, John Medici, Allan Rich, Norman Ornellas, Edward Grover, Albert Henderson, Hank Garrett, Damien Leake, Joseph Bova, M. Emmet Walsh
Written by: Waldo Salt, Norman Wexler, based on the book by Peter Maas
Directed by: Sidney Lumet
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 130
Date: 12/05/1973

Serpico (1973)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

One Good, Hairy Cop

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I'd been waiting to see this Sidney Lumet classic for years. I'd heard rumors about how raw and intense it was. But one of the most disheartening moments for the movie buff is discovering firsthand that nearly everything ever written about a certain movie is wrong. Based on a true story, Serpico takes place over the course of several years. Serpico (Al Pacino) tries to fight corruption on the police force by not taking graft money. Pacino grows lots of hair for the role, but Lumet and screenwriters Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler can't do anything but skim rapidly over the surface of their tale. Serpico comes across as a single-minded zealot with no real character, and the supporting characters -- including Serpico's two girlfriends -- never fully develop. Even at 130 minutes, the story rarely slows down long enough for anything great to happen. Fortunately, Lumet and Pacino went on to make a much better film two years later, Dog Day Afternoon. The Serpico DVD comes with a few short featurettes and a photo gallery with Lumet commentary.

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