This is probably Al Pacino’s best screen role.
This is probably Sidney Lumet’s greatest film (and that’s against some stiff competition, the man was responsible for some great titles).
Sonny Wortzik (Pacino) decides to rob a bank to get money for his boyfriend’s sex change operation. With him is the quiet but dangerous Sal (the much-missed John Cazale), and together they take hostages within the bank, but during the stand-off which follows develop a strange community camaderie with them.
It’s a true story, remarkably, and played very well by all, keeping the tension going, and with quite a downbeat and shocking ending. Charles Durning plays the negotiating policeman, and Chris Sarandon the boyfriend in transition to becoming a woman.
I think what is special about this film is that it is so unusual in its subject matter, and that it draws the characters out to such an extent that you feel for Sonny’s predicament, and feel some sympathy for Sal (who in real life was a young man of 18, not a contemporary in age of Sonny).
It’s also to the benefit of the film that Lumet allowed his actors a degree of improvision which makes the situation feel all the more realistic. Basically, the film is fabulous and five-star.