Sonny Wortzik (Al Pacino) is a rookie criminal who plans on robbing the First Brooklyn Savings Bank. His motivation? He is trying to steal enough money in order to afford a sex change operation for his male partner, Leon (Chris Sarandon). Alongside his friends, Salvatore “Sal” Naturale (John Cazale) and Stevie (Gary Springer), Sonny makes his way to the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York during a scorching summer afternoon. The gang’s plan goes south fairly quickly when Sal draws out his gun and the men waste a few crucial minutes by allowing the employees to use the bathroom. Eventually, Stevie loses his temper, Sal runs away and Sonny discovers that there is only a little over $1,000 left in the bank, since him and his friends arrived after the cash pickup and transport.
A “straightforward” robbery soon turns into a much more dreadful situation once the police become involved. With several of the bank’s employees taken hostage, Sonny is now determined to kill all of his captives if any law enforcement officers attempt to enter the scene. Soon enough a negotiator is sent in to remedy the situation – police detective sergeant Eugene Moretti (Charles Durning). He contacts the bank to let Sonny know that their crew is surrounded by police and demands that he releases one of his prisoners. Working with him is FBI Agent Sheldon (James Broderick), who is carefully and constantly overseeing the negotiations. As a sign of good faith, the crew allows the security guard, Howard Calvin (John Marriott), to leave and make his way to Moretti. But Sonny soon realises that he will not be able to escape the bank as easily as he first thought.
“Lumet has made one of the great bank robbery films, as well as a powerful character study and a taut drama.”
“Despite its sensational premise, it’s the kind of slow, thoughtful character study that only the independents will invest in these days. It will be a long time – if ever – before we see the majors once more investing in movies like Dog Day Afternoon.”
— 20/20 Movie Reviews
Did You Know?
The majority of Dog Day Afternoon’s script (including Pacino’s and Sarandon’s phone conversation) was improvised after director Sidney Lumet modified the initial screenplay based on different rehearsals. The film’s initial title was Boys in the Bank – Lumet was the one who changed the name because he thought the original one would alienate viewers by suggesting that the motion picture was a light-hearted comedy. Review our Gay Themed Films Here