As seemingly the only straight-arrow cop in a corrupt-to-the-core NYPD, an increasingly hirsute Al Pacino gives one of his most iconic performances in Serpico. His committed and detailed portrayal of whistleblower Frank Serpico is the anchor that holds Sidney Lumet’s loosely structured character study together. The film opens with him bleeding from a gunshot wound and desperately clinging to life, before we flash back to see how this ambitious young officer found himself in such dire straits.
Lumet and his brilliant editor Dede Allen eschew a straightforward narrative thrust, opting instead to create more of a mosaic that’s heavy on atmosphere and inference, presenting a portrait of a system in which the criminality that Serpico fought against was endemic and accepted from top to bottom in the force. Serpico is very much a product of its era, the time when major stars and studios habitually took risks; its daring qualities ensure it still feels bracingly fresh. [Philip Concannon]
Released on Blu-ray and DVD by Eureka! Entertainment as part of its Masters of Cinema serieshttp://eurekavideo.co.uk