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Sidney Lumet, 1973
USA | Format: 35mm | 130 minutes
The first film in Lumet’s unofficial trilogy about New York City police corruption (followed by Prince of the City and Q&A) recounts the true-life exploits Frank Serpico (Al Pacino, in an Oscar-nominated performance), a plainclothes cop whose landmark testimony helped to expose the biggest corruption scandal in NYPD history. Filmed on location in four of the five boroughs and set to composer Mikis Theodorakis’s Grammy-nominated score, Serpico endures as one of the great New York crime stories, and a remarkable portrait of one man’s unwavering resolve in the face of widespread intimidation.
“A galvanizing and disquieting film…It is galvanizing because of Al Pacino’s splendid performance in the title role and because of the tremendous intensity that Mr. Lumet brings to this sort of subject. The method—sudden contrasts in tempo, lighting, sound level—seems almost crude, but it reflects the quality of Detective Serpico’s outrage, which, in our society, comes to look like an obsession bordering on madness.”
—Vincent Canby, The New York Times