Serpico (1973) / Drama-Thriller
MPAA Rated: R for violence and language
Running Time: 129 min.
Cast: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe, Biff McGuire, Barbara Eda-Young, M. Emmet Walsh (cameo), F. Murray Abraham (cameo), Judd Hirsch (cameo), Tony Lo Bianco (cameo)
Director: Sidney Lumet
Screenplay: Waldo Salt, Norman Wexler (based on the book by Peter Maas)
Review published December 22, 1998
Serpico marks Al Pacino's (The Godfather, Part II) first chance at carrying a major motion picture; he's a resounding success. There is a memorably powerful performance in the midst of this terrifying (but true) tale about police corruption and the code of silence that ostracizes those cops who try to do the right thing.
Pacino plays Frank Serpico, a NYC plainclothes cop who ends up working in a Bronx precinct that is rife with cops on the take. When Serpico refuses to take money from the criminals like the rest of his colleagues, he finds himself the object of suspicion among them. Serpico tries to keep the situation within the department, but finds the higher-ups don't seem to care about the situation. Getting nowhere, he then takes it outside. the department. and now the other cops know he's a stoolie. They proceed to make Frank's life a living hell, with seemingly no way out.
With an excellent actor like Pacino and a director at the top of his game (Lumet, Network), Serpico is an engaging, thought-provoking, and ultimately moving portrait of an honest cop and the terrible corruption rampant throughout the police force of New York (and many other places). Great use of locales, a good script based on Peter Maas' book of the same name, and a solid supporting cast make this a realistic and tense drama all of the way. Recommended for everyone, but it's an absolute must for Pacino fans.
©1998 Vince Leo