“Who can trust a cop who don’t take money?”
An idealistic young cop (Al Pacino) hoping to work as a plains-clothes detective is dismayed to find both rampant police corruption and a culture of intolerance for those who don’t participate.
Is there such a thing as an honest cop? After watching this adaptation of Peter Maas’s biography about NYPD officer Frank Serpico — whose refusal to accept pay-offs and attempts to expose endemic corruption nearly led to his death — you’ll scarcely believe it’s possible. The film is book-ended by Serpico’s career-ending facial shooting, so we know that what we’ll see for the next two hours will be nothing but a living nightmare for our would-be whistleblower — but watching his train wreck as it unfolds is morbidly fascinating, especially as Pacino shifts in and out of various undercover get-ups. Director Sidney Lumet and DP Arthur Ornitz make impressive use of seemingly countless (actually 104) New York locales — and while Mikis Theodorakis’s invasive, maudlin score mars many scenes, the film is still worth a one-time look.
Note: Check out this 2010 New York Times docu-short in which the real Frank Serpico comments on the film, and we’re updated about his current life.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Al Pacino as Frank Serpico
- Arthur Ornitz’s cinematography
- Excellent use of authentic New York locales
Yes, as a finely crafted if disheartening character study and exposé.