Tag Archives: Dog Day Afternoon

Botched Heist Countdown

The Drop opens this week, another of Dennis Lehane’s gritty crime dramas, this time starring the great Tom Hardy alongside the late, great James Gandolfini in his final performance. We’re eager to screen the film about a botched heist later this week, and thought we’d prepare for it with some of cinema’s best robberies gone wrong.

Dog Day Afternoon (1975)

Sydney Lumet’s excellent Seventies true tale covers what may be the oddest bank hold up ever. Al Pacino’s Sonny and his skuzzy friend Sal (John Cazale) hold up the Chase Manhattan in Brooklyn to pay for Sonny’s boyfriend’s sex reassignment surgery. Excellent writing feeds wonderful performances all around, but be sure to check out the documentary The Dog, proving that the real perpetrator, John Wojtowicz, exceeds all weirdness expectations.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007)

Thirtysome years later, Lumet returned to the scene of a crime with his magnificent final effort. Family dysfunction has never looked quite like this, when two brothers (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Ethan Hawke) decide to rob their parents’ jewelry store. Surprising, devastating, and full of exceptional performances, it was a fitting send off for one of America’s finest filmmakers.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

In 1992, Quentin Tarantino announced his presence with authority. His directorial debut takes us inside a botched jewel heist, introducing us to a modern filmmaking master, and taking classic rock radio to new and creepy heights.

The Town (2010)

Ben Affleck stars and directs this Boston crime tale about a thief who falls for a bank teller. He shows the ability to orchestrate ensemble drama and action that would mark his Oscar winning Argo, and draws truly excellent performances from Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Chris Cooper, the great Pete Postlethwaite, and even Blake Lively.  Who knew?

Animal Kingdom (2010)

This Aussie export of the same year follows a newly orphaned teen welcomed into his estranged grandmother’s criminal family. Unsettlingly naturalistic, boasting exceptional performances all around – including the Oscar nominated Jacki Weaver – and impeccably written, it’s a gem worth seeking.

Every Dog Has His Day

The Dog

By Christie Robb

Hollywood is captivated by bank robbers: John Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde, Patty Hearst, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid…

And John Wojtowicz, aka the Dog.

Not familiar? He’s the inspiration for the 1975 Al Pacino movie Dog Day Afternoon.

The Gateway Film Center is showing the latest of three documentaries on Wojtowicz, The Dog, starting Friday, August 22nd—the 42nd anniversary of the day Wojtowicz robbed a Chase Manhattan bank in order to finance his partner’s sex change operation.

The documentary offers the perspective of the progressively ailing Wojtowicz as well as those of his “wives” (both female and male), mother, eye witnesses, hostages, reporters, and gay rights activists. Directors Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren position Wojtowicz in the context of the burgeoning gay liberation movement, reminding the viewer how eye-opening this event was to many of the television viewers and local bystanders who watched the robbery and subsequent hostage negotiation unfold live. The Stonewall Riots had only happened three years previously.

Wojtowicz gave a good performance during the robbery—threating to beat up police for calling him a faggot, visiting with his adoring mother, having pizza delivered to the bank, throwing thousands of dollars out of the door, and French kissing a man at the bank threshold while still holding hostages. Wojtowicz was primed for theatricality; he went to a screening of The Godfather to psych himself up for the robbery.

And Wojtowicz, gives a good performance here. He describes himself both as a “romantic” and a “pervert” and narrates events leading up to the robbery and his life in its aftermath with a jovial demeanor that often jars with his subject matter. Several times I had to blink and process what just happened. (Is he narrating a butcher knife suicide attempt while smiling and wearing a puffer coat? Did he just offer a blowjob to a walrus?)

Berg and Keraudren leave it up to the audience to form their own conclusions about Wojtowicz. Romantic, willing to face prison to make his partner’s dream come true, as he maintains? Controlling, chauvinistic, sex addict, as interviews with his partners make it seem? A man clinging to his 15 minutes of fame? An ex-con with limited options, making a buck off the crime that prevents him from following his preferred career path in finance?

His story is indeed captivating and probably worth giving him another 15 minutes of fame.