Serpico

Serpico

"Serpico" is artifact of better days for American cinema, when grit and empathy met at a perfect medium, when filmmakers were young and daring and inexperienced actors were pulled into a project on a whim. There was a wave of films in the 70s that were so incredibly dark and brutal, but chronicled very human experiences and emotion: Serpico, The Deer Hunter, Dog Day Afternoon, Mean Streets and Cockfighter. These were the kinds of genuine (and genuinely fucked up) films that we needed to see the Pacinos and DeNiros of the world burgeon into the stars the did. Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunwaye, Harvey Keitel- it's incredible just how many fantastic new actors were working in the industry at this time. "Serpico" paints a dire and honest portrait of police corruption (and brutality), crime and injustice. Pacino sits at the centre of it all, soaks it in, and acts his ass off.

Serpico, the character (who is based on the real Frank Serpico) is a good cop (i.e not a terrible person) in a sea of bad cops, but the film doesn't depict him as a saint: he can't balance his life and he takes his anger out in the wrong places, but he does what he can- at first only passively rebelling but eventually attempts to take more action. As these things usually go, Serpico is penalised rather than his peers. The film opens on its protagonist having just been shot, and the film traces his last 12 years in the police force leading up to the incident. That in itself really reminds me of Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way, a film I, in all honesty, do not get much enjoyment out of, but is a fantastic way to put this film into perspective, how elegantly Lumet paces this. The movement is seamless, but still gives the audience enough information to clock the story development. So impressive.

Not perfect, but still pretty damn close.

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