A review of Sidney Lumen’s 1973 cop drama film starring Al Pacino.
Who can trust a cop who don’t take money?
Following my first viewing of The Godfather Part I & II, I decided to watch Serpico. The early-to-mid 70s seem to be prime Pacino, as he delivers another transformative performance in Serpico.
I had zero expectations going into this film. I was unaware of the plot premise or its reception. All I knew going in was that Al Pacino looks a bit like a hippie. I’m glad I went in fresh, as I was pleasantly surprised by Serpico.
It tells the tale of a NYC cop who learns of corruption within the force and tries to do something about it. It covers a decade pretty quickly, which keeps the film moving at an enjoyable pace. I liked how the film would just move along and not over explain what happens. It’s brilliant how the passage of time is shown by little things like Serpico’s hair, his dog, and other minor visual queues. It’s “show, don’t tell” at some of its best.
Corruption may not always start at the top, but that doesn’t mean that the top isn’t to blame. Aside from a few friends that Serpico, or Paco as his friends call him, makes, this film is very much about his journey from precinct to precinct, only to continue discovering the new one is more corrupt than the last.
Visually, I really like the way the movie looks. It’s got a somewhat dark and gritty tone, which is fitting. All of the acting seemed solid, but Al Pacino really rises above the other cast members as Serpico. From the way he talks to the way he dresses to the way he moves, it’s so believable. I was rooting for him the entire time.
My two main gripes with the film are: people of color are pretty much exclusively used as the criminals in this film, which is a bummer, and the two women that Serpico goes out with aren’t really developed or complex. They’re a blip on the radar of the film, which I found disappointing.
Serpico holds up well 44 years later. I don’t think it hits the artistic and story highs of The Godfather, but it’s a solid film and one worth watching.