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Film: Dog Day Afternoon

Dog Day Afternoon is a 1975 Sidney Lumet film starring Al Pacino as Sonny Wortzik and John Cazale as Sal, his partner. This film is based on Real Life.

On the hottest day of the year, three men hold up a bank. What should have been a quick in-and-out robbery turned into an hours long stand off that becomes crazier as the crowds - and media attention - grow. Despite the simple plot, this film covers a wide variety of themes, from ideas about gender and personality, to Stockholm and Lima syndrome.

Not to be confused with the 2011 Heroic Fantasy Anime called Dog Days. For a Race Lift remake starring Denzel Washington, see John Q.


Tropes associated:

  • Affably Evil
    • Sonny is snappish, crude, and impatient, but the hostages and the viewer alike can't help warming to him. For one thing, he steadfastly refuses to go near the Villain Ball, refraining from any act of wanton cruelty toward the hostages even when anonymous callers urge him to take advantage of the situation — but even more so, he's just so urgently human that his affable side inevitably shows through. (We do hear stories from Leon portraying his past actions in a not-at-all affable light, but the reliability of that source is questionable.)
    • Sal also qualifies, though to a much lesser extent since he's definitely pretty creepy even while relaxing with the hostages. That said, Maria gives him her rosary at the airport as a sincere present, so he must have made a relatively favorable impression as well.
  • Anti-Villain
  • Bank Robbery
  • Bank Teller: The tellers are significant characters with personalities.
  • Bi the Way: Sonny is either a formerly closeted gay man or bisexual.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Would be a Downer Ending if not for Reality Subtext.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation: The LGBT slogan "Out of the closets and into the streets" is translated into Dutch as "Uit de toiletten, in het licht" (Out of the toilets, into the light).
  • Briefcase Blaster: Sal smuggled the Smith and Wesson M76 into the bank inside a briefcase. Likewise, Sonny smuggled the M1 Carbine inside a birthday present. Stevie, however, simply hid the revolver in his pocket.
  • Catch Phrase: "I'm dying here". Leon says that Sonny uses it "...every day of [his] goddamn life".
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: FBI evil, local cops good. Mind you, Sonny himself would call them all evil — he constantly accuses the local Detective Moretti of trying to con him — but it's never clear how much of this is just Sonny being paranoid, and Moretti gives the impression of trying to play the situation as honestly as possible. The same definitely can't be said for FBI agent Sheldon, who (though still acting on the side of justice) quite plainly deceives or attempts to deceive Sonny on several occasions... and it's he who introduces the notion to Sonny that the two bank robbers are not necessarily heading for the same fate.
  • The Ditz: Sal, who when asked which country he'd like to go to responds with "Wyoming."
  • Downer Ending: Bank robbers or not, the story ends tragically both in real life and fiction.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The whole movie takes place over a single afternoon/evening.
  • FBI Agent: Agents Sheldon and Murphy.
  • Friendly Enemy: Despite still having weapons trained on them, the bank staff spend a lot of time in the film making casual conversation with their captors. At one point, Sonny even lets one teller handle his rifle. Likewise, despite Sonny distrusting Detective Moretti and Moretti wanting Sonny behind bars, the two are on mostly reasonable terms until an FBI agent is put in charge.
  • Heat Wave: When the robbery takes place. Problem was, the film was made during winter, forcing the cast to suck on ice cubes and run about in summer clothes.
  • Hope Spot: Near the end, for the protagonists. Then Sonny is arrested and Sal is killed.
  • Large Ham:
  • Laughably Evil: Sonny at times.
  • Lima Syndrome
  • Mama Bear: Head-teller Sylvia, AKA "The Mouth" is a minor example who does not harm or threaten to harm anyone for intimidating her co-workers, but initially scolds Sonny for using foul language, chastises the police for manhandling an asthmatic hostage, and later willingly remains a hostage so as to keep the other younger bank tellers calm.
  • Mistaken for Gay: A newscaster says the crime is being perpetrated by two homosexuals. Sal is not pleased.
  • Plethora of Mistakes
  • Police Brutality: The huge number of police officers surrounding Sonny lets him invoke the excessive use of force by New York State Police during the 1971 Attica Prison riot, leading to the famous chant to get the crowd on his side.
  • Precision F-Strike: Mulvaney telling Sonny, "I wish the fuck you never came into this bank." He actually apologizes to the women afterwards for his language.
  • Reality Has No Soundtrack: No musical score beyond the opening sequence.
  • Real Life
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Detective Moretti, who attempts to reason with Sonny and stop the beat cops from turning the situation into another Attica.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Sonny is the red and Sal is the blue.
  • Remember The Alamo: "Attica!" and possibly also "Out of the closet and into the streets!"
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Among their other issues, Sonny and Sal apparently served in Vietnam. ("So killing don't mean nothing to us, understand?")
    • Probably a lie, at least in the case of Sal, who later mentions that he's never flown in an airplane before. Unless he went over by boat...
  • Shoot the Hostage Taker: Sonny's partner Sal gets shot this way at the end.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog
  • Stockholm Syndrome
  • Stupid Crooks: Even if the robbery had gone exactly as planned, Sonny and Co. surely would have been caught almost immediately: they don't wear gloves, don't wear masks, and call each other by their real names in front of the bank staff, all in full view of closed circuit cameras (which Sonny only paints over halfway through the robbery). Sonny even makes sure to let the tellers know that he's a Vietnam veteran and a former bank teller, just in case the police might want to check that angle out.
  • Those Two Bad Guys: Sonny and Sal.
  • Transsexual: Sonny's boyfriend-wife, Leon. The whole purpose of the bank robbery is to pay for his sex-change operation.
  • Vietnam War: Sonny is a veteran (though Sal most likely isn't). In fact, it's possible Sonny's rifle is an artifact of his service.
  • What Could Possibly Go Wrong?: The bank robbery was supposed to be easy...
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Stevie, the third bank robber who chickened out about 5 minutes into the robbery. Did he go home and start acting like nothing happened? Did Sonny rat on him? Was he the one who informed the cops in the first place?
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The credits at the end say that Sonny was sentenced to 20 years in prison, that Angie (Sonny's wife) and their children were living on Welfare, and Leon (Sonny's boyfriend) had his sex-change surgery and was living as a woman in New York City.
  • Word Salad Title: "Dog Day Afternoon" doesn't make sense unless you know that "dog days" refers to the hottest days of summer. The film takes place during a heat wave.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: After nearly being ambushed, Sonny decides to stop trusting the cop who was negotiating with him, thinking the higher-ups will be more likely to get him a deal and less likely to try and put him down. This is proven wrong on several levels.


The Lord of the RingsAFIS 100 Years 100 Movie Quotes42nd Street
The Wild BunchAFIS 100 Years 100 ThrillsGoldfinger
Do the Right ThingRoger Ebert Great Movies ListLa Dolce Vita
Doc SavageFilms of the 1970sDolemite
Dirty Rotten ImbecilesAdministrivia/Needs a Better DescriptionFurry Vengeance
Doctor XCreator/Warner Bros. The Dukes of Hazzard
Once Upon a Time in the WestUsefulNotes/National Film RegistryThe Muppet Movie
Barry LyndonAcademy AwardJaws

alternative title(s): Dog Day Afternoon
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