Starring: Al Pacino, John Randolph, Jack Kehoe
Director: Sidney Lumet
Running Time: 130 mins
Serpico is an American film about a young New York police officer who, out of a desire to fight for honesty everywhere, begins to fight corruption within his own NYPD, leading his colleagues to turn on him.
This is an intriguing, atmospheric and well-acted crime drama. Al Pacino’s central performance is one of the best of his career, whilst the story here is on the whole hugely compelling, and despite some relatively slow pacing, the gritty feel of the story makes it very realistic and exciting to watch.
Pacino’s performance here is definitely the most praiseworthy part of the film. Unlike the majority of his criminal roles, he portrays a fully likeable character here, and despite his many flaws, he makes his character’s good intentions so clear to you that it’s impossible to not support him and care for him as he faces growing opposition from his colleagues, which really raises the stakes in some of the more intense scenes.
What’s more is that this film takes the atmosphere of a gritty crime film like so many of the best movies of the 1970s and use it to tell a good story, which is something refreshing and original to see. It’s a fascinating tale of good versus evil, and the main character’s battle against corruption is hugely exciting to watch, and rather than giving you a sense of despondency and depression, it’s a story that gives you a good feel coming out of it.
The realism also helps significantly in making this a more exciting film to watch, simply because it makes the corruption within the police force a much more real concept and consequently even scarier to think about, and whilst this film isn’t preachy in any way in pushing that agenda, it’s still a film that sheds light on the topic in fascinating and engrossing fashion.
The only problems here come from the pacing. Whilst it starts off as a thrilling drama, and finishes up in the same way, the middle portion can be described as somewhat slow. It’s not dull, but it just doesn’t evoke the same excitement as the first and final parts of the film, and that’s the only reason that this just doesn’t live up to some of the most famous 70s crime dramas.
Overall, this gets a 7.7, due to its fantastic sense of gritty realism, largely exciting and fascinating story and brilliant central character helped by a fantastic performance by Al Pacino.