Sunday, February 13, 2011
Movie Review: Serpico (1973)
One rotten apple can spoil the whole bunch, but what happens to one good apple in a barrel full of rotten apples? New York cop Frank Serpico found out the hard way. Based on a true story as documented in the book by Peter Maas, Serpico is one of the defining films of 1970s cinema, combining one of the decade's biggest stars with the decade's most compelling city.
Al Pacino is hypnotic as Frank Serpico, defining the often imitated and now standard look of the ruffled, messy, frequently disguised undercover cop who refuses to play by the rules. Pacino's performance combines determination with the doubt and despair of a man confronted by an overwhelmingly powerful and established system yet refusing to yield to it.
New York City has never looked more depressing and doomed than in Serpico, Sidney Lumet keeping his cameras well away from any attractive features and focusing on run-down neighborhoods, miserable buildings, and grimy streets. Lumet's New York is filled with shadowy criminals on every corner, some dressed the part and others dressed as police officers.
The original music score by Mikis Theodorakis is full of emotion, but perhaps unnecessarily overused early in the film.
Serpico is a study of a principled man up against a rotten system in a dilapidating city, a trio that is most compelling to watch.
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