Serpico : The Film - The Book
It's pretty safe to say that honest cop, Frank Serpico (Al Pacino), is very emotional and eccentric man indeed. For example; he is over the moon when his Italian American mother gives him some cash so that he can move into his own apartment. He is amused by his work college's distain for his grungy appearance and bohemian behavior. He just loves his sheepdog and his promotion up the ranks. But he hates it when a corrupt cop gives him some money so he can go on 'the take' with him.
In fact, Frank does not like the idea of police corruption in his department to such a degree, that he goes to an old friend of his, Bob Blair (Tony Robert), to sort this matter out by contacting those 'on high'.
However, this does not really go according to plan - twice - and Frank is really left up sh*t creek, especially when his police colleges don't like the idea that Frank does not want to comply with their shady endeavors. Worst still, is that over time Frank starts to become so frustrated with the sticky situation he is in, he begins to push his friends away from him.
Poor Frank, all he wants to do is to carry out his job properly, right? Isn't their any light at the end of the tunnel for him?
Hmm. Funnily enough, there is.
Hmm. Funnily enough, there is.
You see, due to some of Frank's previous attempt to sort this problem out, word reaches Chief Sidney Green (John Randolph), who acts as an internal affairs investigator for the police force. So now with him by Frank's side, together, they then manage to get this issue handled within a court of law.
Good news, right? Err, depends on your perspective really. Though I suppose that is why what next transpires if a right roller-coaster ride of law and order I can tell you. As the media come into play - tribunals cannot pay - officers are shot - and Franks has had his lot.
When I first watched 'Serpico' whilst I was at University a couple of years ago, I have to admit, that it was a very strange experience for me at the time. You see, during that period of my life, I was very much like Al's character. No - please don't get the wrong idea - I wasn't some sort of undercover Narc who was fighting corruption in the student union bar. Instead, I was a very bohemian looking character who wore very loud clothes, sported a mullet and a beard, and had a very honest outlook on life - too honest in fact. So you can imagine how I felt when I first watched this film! Confused and surprised to say the least.
Please note, I do mean this in a very positive way of course. As this true crime thriller is just a blast through and though. The acting is great. The story is expansive. The style is pure Lumet. And overall, it is masterful piece of true-life dramatization. Look at the facts: (1) This film originally came about because it was supposed to be a vehicle for the Paul Newman and Robert Redford partnership, due to their success in the movie, 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid'.
Redford was to play Frank Serpico, and Newman was to
play his lawyer, David Durk. (2) Strangely enough, this film was recorded in
reverse order, with Al's hair and beard being trimmed bit by bit. (3) The real Frank
Serpico spent a lot of time with Al Pacino before filming so that he could get
into his role better. During filming though, he was told to leave by producer,
Marty Bregman, because he believed that his presence would prove detrimental to
Al. (4) John G. Avildsen was originally going to direct this film, but he
was sacked by Marty due to 'creative differences'. (5) This flick was shot
in one hundred and four different locations in every borough of . (6) This film covers twelve and half
years of Serpico's life, starting from September, 1959, to June, 1972. And
(7) Although the real Serpico did travel abroad after the events of his time on
the police force, he did return to New
York City in the 1980's, and now lives
as a nomad. New York
OK, so how can I explain to you how good 'Serpico' is, huh? Could I say that Al Pacino did so great in this flick, that I think his role could easily rival anything he did on the 'Godfather' films or 'Dog Day Afternoon'? (click on link for the review). What about if I said that Tony Roberts was such a good foil to Al's shenanigans, that every time they were on screen together, it actually lit up? Or better yet, what if I said that all of the supporting cast are just so memorable in this movie, that when their time is done on this film, it's a shame to see them go?
Oh! Wait a minute. I just did. Didn't I? D'oh!
Anyway, where the story in itself is concerned, I do have to applaud screenwriters, Waldo Salt and Norman Wexler, for doing such a great job adapting Peter Maas' original book. Granted, like many of the other films which entail a rather expanded time frame, in places, the overall pretext does get slightly fragmented within the narrative, and I would have liked to have seen captions to state that the passage of time has past (i.e. two years later etc... etc... etc...). Also, sometimes Serpico's own 'personal life' isn't that clear either because of this issue as well. Still, all in all that is only a slight niggle really, and it only takes a minute of confusion before you can find your footing again, story-wise.
By in large 'Serpico' is a classic movie of its time, and for any time. It manages to entertain with a true life story that is full of character, pathos, texture, and girth, and is really fun to watch too. Wouldn't you agree Serpico?
THE RATING: A